MIDDLESBROUGH are above npower Championship title favourites Cardiff City – but they are going to have to wait until Friday night to take top spot.
Boro ended their City Ground hoodoo to take another vital point in their promotion campaign last night,
But their second clean sheet in 112 years on the banks of the River Trent was not enough to put them at the top of the Championship.
Cardiff threw away a two-goal lead at Charlton to lose 5-4 but Crystal Palace stole pole position with a 5-0 thrashing of Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich.
Boro looked a little “jaded” after a brilliant run of five straight league wins and first-team coach Mark Proctor viewed the draw at one of his former clubs as a point won rather than two points dropped.
“This division is very difficult and is demanding, emotionally, mentally and physically, ” said Proctor. “And we did well to come out of this with a point.”
Boro were searching for a seventh straight victory and in-form striker Scott McDonald had their best two chances but could not convert either opening.
And Boro could count themselves fortunate to escape with a point as Reds striker Billy Sharp was denied by the woodwork late in the second half.
Proctor, deputising in the press conference for boss Tony Mowbray, who is still suffering the effects of a virus, added: “We’re delighted. We would have liked to have won the game, but this was our third straight away game and we looked a bit jaded.
“We were playing against a very good Forest team who have some good players. We always knew it would be a tough game.”
Boro can go top with a win on Friday evening against Sheffield Wednesday at the Riverside.
It took 12 minutes for the first effort on goal, with Lukas Jutkiewicz’s low 20-yard effort bringing a comfortable save from Reds goalkeeper Lee Camp.
Two minutes later, Andy Reid received the ball in the area and took his time before curling a left-footed strike narrowly over, while Sharp then got away a shot under pressure and his effort whistled inches past Jason Steele’s left-hand upright.
Forest should have opened the scoring after 34 minutes when Reid delivered a dangerous cross, but both Sharp and Cohen got in a muddle with the ball at their feet and Boro cleared to Adlene Guedioura, whose fierce drive was deflected over.
Boro introduced Justin Hoyte for Stuart Parnaby at the start of the second half, but it was Forest who started the better when they won a corner inside the first minute, with Sharp nodding Reid’s flag-kick narrowly wide.
Forest skipper Danny Collins came to the hosts’ rescue with a terrific challenge on Jutkiewicz as he was about to pull the trigger following a glorious ball over the top by Grant Leadbitter.
In the 74th minute, Sharp was denied by the woodwork after collecting Cox’s knock-on and smashing a shot past the despairing dive of Steele.
After Reid had inexplicably let a cross go through his legs when it seemed easier to score, Boro raced down the other end where McDonald’s looping shot landed on top of Camp’s net.
Nottm Forest: Camp, Halford, Ward, Collins, Harding (Moloney 88), Cohen, Guedioura, Gillett, Reid (Lansbury 88), Sharp, Cox (Blackstock 88). Subs Not Used: Darlow, McGugan, Tudgay, Coppinger. Booked: Guedioura.
Middlesbrough: Steele, Parnaby (Hoyte 46), Hines, Bikey, Friend, Bailey, Haroun, Leadbitter, McEachran, McDonald (Zemmama 85), Jutkiewicz (Ledesma 80). Subs Not Used: Leutwiler, Luke Williams, Reach, Smallwood. Booked: Leadbitter.
Att: 20,150 Ref: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).