Deluge changes plot for Forest

Football: Nottingham Forest 1 Middlesbrough 1
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The Independent Online
For an hour this had the makings of a Clint Eastwood movie and the men with no first names, Emerson, Juninho and Ravanelli, looked like riding away from the City Ground with a fist full of points.

Then, as the weather took a hand, Alfred Hitchcock sprang to mind - and not only because Psycho grabbed the equaliser.

It began with Boro's foreign triumvirate and their English fellow-traveller Nick Barmby - a magnificent number seven - making the play while the sun shone.

With the midfield as crowded as a scene from Ben Hur, the patient approach worked best. Emerson's accurate distribution in tight situations and Ravanelli's ability to hold the ball up and play incisive one-twos with his support players, the deft Barmby and the visionary Juninho, brought Boro the best of the openings.

So the script was working out nicely when a powerful run by Emerson, waltzing round Chris Allen and Chris Bart-Williams on the right, released Juninho to put Boro ahead with a crisp shot from the edge of the box.

Forest, who nobody would normally accuse of being Route One merchants, could not get their wingers round the back of the solid Boro defence, and were reduced to the familiar English tactic of pumping long balls towards Dean Saunders and Kevin Campbell.

Then came the deluge, turning the pitch into a passable imitation of the nearby river Trent, and the game suddenly assumed the excitement and uncertainty of a Hitchcock thriller.

A greasy ball and a treacherous surface made Boro's intricate touches more problematic, while Steve Stone and Ian Woan began to flower on the wings for Forest. A string of crosses and corners caused panic among the Boro defenders, though the equaliser came from a set-piece - a typical cannon-ball free-kick from Stuart Pearce.

When the credits rolled, the managers turned their attentions to the body count - 10 bookings and a sending-off.

"There was not a bad tackle in the game," said Boro's Bryan Robson, "so why so many bookings? That might cost us players in important games."

Forest's Frank Clark agreed: "The general standard of refereeing was good, but there was an over-liberal use of yellow cards which meant Nigel Pearson had to be sent off for an innocuous offence."

Goals: Juninho (47) 0-1; Pearce (68) 1-1.

Nottingham Forest (3-5-2): Crossley; Cooper, Jerkan, Pearce; Stone, Haland, Bart-Williams, Woan, Allen (Roy, 75); Saunders, Campbell. Substitutes not used: Chettle, Gemmill, Fettis (gk), McGregor.

Middlesbrough (3-5-2): Miller; Whelan, Vickers, Pearson; Emerson, Fleming, Juninho, Mustoe, Cox; Barmby, Ravanelli. Substitutes not used: Walsh (gk), Moore, Hendrie, Hignett, Branco.

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).

Bookings: Nottingham Forest: Stone, Jurken, Pearce. Middlesbrough: Fleming, Cox, Mustoe, Whelan, Pearson, Emerson. Sending-off: Middlesbrough: Pearson.

Man of the match: Middlesbrough: Emerson.

Attendance: 24,705.