Football: Beck's goal keeps Boro run going

Middlesbrough 1 Nottingham Forest 1
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The Independent Online
He may not have succeeded in halting the Ibrox juggernaut's passage towards a celebrated nine-in-a-row north of Hadrian's ultimate defensive wall, but Pierre van Hooijdonk played a prominent part in slowing, if not quite jolting, the Middlesbrough bandwagon last night.

The third-minute goal theDutchman set up for Alf Inge Haland ultimately stopped Middlesbrough continuing their revival with a fifth League win in a row. Mikkel Beck's equaliser, 11 minutes into the second half, salvaged a draw for Boro, whose appeal against the three points docked for not playing at Blackburn in December is heard by the Football Association tomorrow.

But the point earned by Van Hooijdonk and his Forest colleagues could prove to be precious. Three of the five games they have left to face in their fight against relegation are at the City Ground.

Having been eight points adrift of safety less than three weeks ago, Middlesbrough could afford the relative luxury of the two which eluded them last night. Though Mark Crossley denied Alan Moore with a crucial save in the frantic finale, Bryan Robson was doubtless relieved that his team recovered from such a punishing early blow.

Ian Woan set in motion Forest's scoring move, prompting a left-flank overlap by Stuart Pearce, whose sweeping cross was met with a thunderous volley by Van Hooijdonk. Mark Schwarzer responded with a brilliant diving save but Van Hooijdonk showed admirable agility of his own, heading the loose ball to Haland, who rifled it, right-footed, past the prostrate Middlesbrough keeper.

Pearce quickly reverted to saviour, racing to Crossley's left-hand post to intercept Moore's angled ball to the loitering Craig Hignett. But Forest's player-manager could only watch gratefully as his goalkeeper clutched a Juninho drive at the second attempt.

The Brazilian's effort was struck from outside the area and Pearce was no doubt encouraged by Middlesbrough's struggle to get the ball into the danger zone, though he was required to make another vital covering tackle, again on Hignett, before his side reached half-time with a clean sheet.

It was perhaps even more surprising that both teams went into the break boasting clean disciplinary records, Pearce and Van Hooijdonk having been involved in a goalmouth scuffle which ended with the 6ft 5in centre-forward being shoved to the ground by Schwarzer.

Having suffered worse in his early days at Parkhead (a stranger spat in his face when he pulled up at traffic lights), Van Hooijdonk merely picked himself up and carried on unaffected.

Forest, though, always seemed destined for just one point, after Neil Cox found Beck unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box and the Dane beat Crossley, who last night withdrew from the Wales squad for Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Belgium with a back injury, with a side-footed finish.

Middlesbrough (4-3-1-2): Schwarzer; Cox, Pearson, Festa, Fleming; Blackmore, Emerson, Moore; Juninho; Hignett, Beck. Substitutes not used: Whyte, Vickers, Summerbell, Ormerod, Roberts (gk).

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Phillips, Haland (O'Neil, 67), Gemmill, Woan (Moore, 89); Saunders (Roy, 67), Van Hooijdonk. Substitutes not used: Allen, Fettis (gk).

Referee: P Danson (Leicester).

Bottom of Premiership

P W D L F A Pts

Derby 31 8 11 12 35 47 35

West Ham 31 8 9 14 31 41 33

Sunderland 32 8 9 15 29 48 33

*Middlesbro 31 9 8 14 44 52 32

N Forest 33 6 13 14 28 49 31

Coventry 32 6 12 14 27 46 30

Soton 31 6 9 16 39 51 27

* Middlesbrough deducted three points

Remaining fixtures


5 Apr Manchester Utd (A); 12 Apr Aston Villa (H); 19 Apr Newcastle (A); 23 Apr Nottm Forest (H); 3 May Coventry (A); 11 May Arsenal (H). TBA Southampton (H).


9 Apr Middlesbrough (H); 12 Apr Southampton (A); 19 Apr Everton (H); 23 Apr Leicester (H); 3 May Sheff Wed (H); 6 May Newcastle (H); 11 May Man Utd (A).


5 Apr Newcastle (A); 13 Apr Liverpool (H); 19 Apr Middlesbrough (A); 22 Apr Southampton (H); 3 May Everton (H); 11 May Wimbeldon (A).


9 Apr West Ham (A); 19 Apr Sunderland (H); 23 Apr Tottenham (A); 3 May A Villa (H); 6 May Man Utd (A); 11 May Leeds (A); TBA Blackburn (A).


5 Apr Southampton (H); 19 Apr Leeds (H); 23 Apr Derby (A); 3 May Wimbledon (H); 11 May Newcastle (A).


6 Apr Liverpool (A); 9 Apr Chelsea (H); 19 Apr Southampton (A); 21 Apr Arsenal (H); 3 May Derby (H); 11 May Tottenham (A).


5 Apr Nottingham For (A); 12 Apr West Ham (H); 19 Apr Coventry (H); 22 Apr Sunderland (A); 3 May Blackburn (H); 11 May Aston Villa (A). TBA Derby (A).