Football: Collymore covers Forest faults: Boro rebuffed

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Nottingham Forest. . .1

Middlesbrough. . . . .1

FOREST marked their first Christmas of the post-Clough era by stretching their unbeaten run to nine matches at the City Ground yesterday, though it took a characteristic late strike by Stan Collymore to deny Middlesbrough only their second victory in 14 games.

Collymore's equaliser, his 17th goal out of the 39 Frank Clark's team have scored in all competitions, negated the lead Alan Moore's seventh of the season had given the visitors shortly after half-time. It also ensured a just outcome to an even contest between two relegated sides.

Forest otherwise offered insufficient evidence to the 26,901 crowd - the First Division's biggest gathering of the season - that they are good enough to mount a concerted promotion challenge. Some of last winter's failings remain, notably a weakness between the posts, while the statistics underline their reliance on Collymore's goals.

The pounds 2.2m striker from Southend is often over-ambitious in his scoring attempts but when one does come off, it is a sight to behold. More is the pity that he is being asked to forage alone, with only the fleet-footed Norwegian, Lars Bohinen, regularly offering support from midfield.

On this occasion, however, it was Boro who supplied the more spectacular goal. It arrived in the 50th minute when Moore, a 19-year-old Dubliner with the deceptively shambling gait patented by the Clarke brothers, unleashed a vicious cross-shot from the angle of the penalty area. Mark Crossley appeared to be ushering the ball wide, but it rebounded into the net off his far post.

Forest stepped up the tempo, with Stuart Pearce lending his awesome presence at set-pieces, yet their 71st-minute riposte had innocuous origins. Des Lyttle's glorified up-and-under should have been a routine clearance for Nicky Mohan.

But in an instant, Collymore's power and pace left the Boro defender trailing, and before Stephen Pears could think about narrowing the angle, a swing of the right boot had buried the ball beyond him from just inside the 18-yard box.

Pears then thwarted the scorer and Pearce by getting his fingertips to their respective headers. Defeat, though, would have been harsh on Lennie Lawrence's men, who had the better of a sluggish first half in which Lyttle headed off the line from the former Forest forward, Paul Wilkinson.

Nottingham Forest (4-5-1): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Stone, Bohinen, Phillips, Gemmill, Black; Collymore. Substitutes not used: Webb, Bull, Wright (gk).

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Pears; Fleming, Mohan, Whyte, Liburd; Mustoe, Pollock, Peake, Gannon; Moore, Wilkinson. Substitutes not used: Johnson, Todd, Roberts (gk).

Referee: K Barratt (Coventry).

(Photograph omitted)