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The Steve Cotterill era gets off to a winning start. Nottingham Forest 2-0 Middlesbrough

Wednesday 19th October 2011
Steve Cotterill began his reign as Nottingham Forest against the Championship's only unbeaten, Middlesbrough. However, you wouldn't have known it, as Forest recorded their first home win of the season, and put in a very impressive display.

 

Cotterill said he deliberately left it late to emerge from the tunnel, but even that couldn't stop him being surrounded by flashing photographers. He received a welcoming applause from the Forest fans.

 

Forest lined up in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, with the notable changes being Chris Gunter moving to right midfield, and Marcus Tudgay partnering Ishmael Miller in attack.

 
 

The home side had much of the early possession, but weren't able to get notable efforts on goal. Something that was obvious from the early stages of the match was that Forest was much hungrier and showed real desire to go and win the ball back when they didn't have possession. It's that eagerness that we have been lacking in recent weeks. Boro keeper Jason Steele was first called into action when Marcus Tudgay won a flick on and centre half Seb Hines had to nod back to his goalie with Ishmael Miller breathing down his neck.

 

Middlesbrough weren't making the most of their small amount of possession, and were very much relying on counter attacking through balls, but the Forest defence held firm. Having not really tested Steele at all, in the 35th minute, Forest made a breakthrough. Lewis McGugan picked up the ball 10 yards inside the Boro half and played an exquisite, inch perfect pass to Chris Gunter, who had overlapped into the box. The Welshman then drilled a great first time ball across the 6 yard box for Marcus Tudgay to top home from close range.

Forest had made the most of their possession, and Steve Cotterill leapt to into the air, pumped his fists and celebrated in front of the Main Stand. It was a really passionate moment from the new boss, and with the fans very much behind the team, it was time for Forest to kick on.

They almost doubled their lead before half time, when a McGugan in swinging corner was met by Luke Chambers. His initial header was blocked, but poked the rebound back towards goal, only for Ishmael Miller to block the ball and send it over the bar.

There were patches where Forest strung together some really neat passing, but they were unable to double their half time lead. Nonetheless, Forest went in at half time with a deserved lead that they had earned. The goal was a terrific move, putting to bed any concerns Cotterill might adopt a ‘hoofball' approach. It was a very encouraging half with hunger and desire and was a case of ‘so far so good.'

Middlesbrough made a change at half time, bringing off left back Joe Bennett, who I thought looked like Boro's best player, and replaced him with Manchester City loanee Alex Nimley. Middlesbrough will feel they should have been level just a few minutes into the second period. Barry Robson curled in a great left footed free kick deep into the Forest box, but Nicky Bailey squandered the chance and headed wide.

 

Lewis McGugan, who put in an impressive attacking display, skipped passed two Boro players and opted to take the shot on early from outside the box, but the effort sailed wide of Steele's goal.

 

Marcus Tudgay then held up the ball well, and fed Ishmael Miller, he held off the Boro defenders well, and got his shot away, but it was blocked. He then was first to react and had another crack which too was blocked. Radi Majewski then picked up the ball and then his shot was beaten away by Boro's defenders. But that string of shots would not be the end of it. Lewis McGugan picked up the ball 25 yards out, danced passed two before cutting inside onto his right foot and placing the ball across Steele into the left corner with precision.

 

Forest had their 2 goal lead, and it really was a goal that you'd describe as “trademark McGugan.” It was one of the few times this season that Forest had a sustained spell of genuine pressure on an opposition goal and it was capped by a great finish. McGugan at his very best.

Quickly after the restart, Tudgay dummied passed his man and released Miller down the right flank. His determination, no doubt keen to prove any doubters wrong after his Twitter outburst last week, won a corner. It was easily cleared by the Boro defence, and as Marvin Emnes threatened to break, Joel Lynch got back and made a superb challenge to prevent the counter.

 

Boro made their final two substitutions as Julio Arca and Malaury Martin replaced Nicky Bailey and Faris Haroun.

 

Forest then had a golden chance to put the game well and truly to bed as Lewis McGugan whipped in a delightful free kick, and Wes Morgan, having peeled away from his man, could only flick his header narrowly wide of the far post.

 

Boro then started to get their foot on the ball and come into the game for the first time. The Forest defence held firm, with Clint Hill and Joel Lynch especially putting in terrific displays, as neither of them lost an aerial battle and were brave going into every challenge.

Robbie Findley then replaced Ishmael Miller and Jonathan Greening came on for Lewis McGugan, who received a standing ovation for a strong attacking performance. Fortunately, there were no boos for Greening when he came on, and his first two passes were met with cheers (because they both went forwards) as was his first tackle, which earned Forest a throw in.

Boro then had the chance to peg one back when a dinked ball into the Forest box found Justin Hoyte, but Lee Camp was quick off his goal line to smother the effort and divert it away for a corner.

 

Forest made their final sub, bringing on Matt Derbyshire for Radi Majewski. The Reds then saw out the game with relative ease, holding back any Boro attack. The away side finished with 10 men as Kevin Thompson limped off injured, with Tony Mowbray already making his three allocated substitutions.

 

So, Forest had seen off an unbeaten (though fairly poor on the night) Middlesbrough side, who offered very little. Taking nothing away from Forest, as they showed great spirit, fight and believe to win the game, scoring 2 very good goals. In his first press conference, Steve Cotterill said it looked like our players had “fallen out of love with football”, but on Tuesday night, it was a sort of epiphany, as the manager, players and fans left the ground with that lovin' feeling again.

 

In his post match interview, Cotterill spoke of his delight at getting off to a good start, but reminded fans that we must stay grounded and there is still work to be done. I was chuffed for him, because he came across again as a very humble, passionate and nice man and, even if there were some doubters at there, we're all behind him now.

 
Man of the Match: The announcer gave it to Lewis McGugan, unsurprisingly; as his goal and spectacular pass for the first were obviously stand out moments. But for me, it has to go to Joel Lynch. He was nothing short of outstanding. He didn't lose a single header, he made countless clean tackles and was really vocal at the heart of the defence. We've been treated to some fine defensive displays during our two play-off seasons, but I don't think you'll find many better than that.

 

Written by James Bolton

Follow me on Twitter - @Bolton0301
James Bolton

Total articles: 29

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