In-form Nottingham Forest next up for Middlesbrough

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MIDDLESBROUGH face a test of their squad strength and character tonight when they meet another of the Championship’s higher fliers.

Boro play host to promotion-chasing Nottingham Forest at the Riverside – just over 72 hours after being beaten 3-0 at home by leaders QPR.

Forest arrive in the North-East looking for a win which would move them to within just one point of Swansea City, who occupy the second automatic promotion spot behind Rangers.

Billy Davies’ side are in good form, having lost just once in the last five games.

And Mowbray is expecting an examination every bit as difficult as Saturday’s match against Rangers.

“Forest are right up there with QPR in my opinion,” said Mowbray. “It’s another big test for us.

“They’re just as powerful and have very strong options off the bench.

“Billy has some very talented players.

“They generally play 3-4-2-1 with clever, creative players behind a single striker.

“And they’ve got some very talented wide players.

“They’ll be desperate to go up having missed out in the play-offs in recent years.

“So we’re playing a good side and nobody should be under any illusions about that.

“But can we win? Yes, I believe we can.”

Mowbray though must re-shuffle his defence after losing another central defender.

Last month it was skipper Matthew Bates, who limped off at Crystal Palace, and on Saturday it was Andrew Davies who hobbled off.

Davies, who has only just returned to the club, could be out for several weeks with a hamstring strain.

Mowbray now faces a choice between transfer-deadline signing Maxi Haas and Jonathan Grounds for the vacant centre-half berth.

The former Bayern Munich defender came on for Davies on Saturday and would appear to be the favourite to start tonight.

Boro would appear desperate for the three points from this game in hand on the rivals around them in the relegation battle.

The side, for all the improved form under Mowbray, are only five points above third-bottom Scunthorpe.

Three points would put Boro within touching distance of a clutch of teams just below mid-table.

But Mowbray and right-hand-man Mark Venus would – privately – probably be satisfied with a point.

Forest are one of the most difficult sides in the league to beat – their outstanding record of five defeats is only bettered by QPR (three).

Their defence has been in miserly form – again, only leaders Rangers have conceded fewer goals.

“We’ve got to try to be difficult to play against,” Mowbray said.

“And hopefully we can cause them some problems at the other end.”