Football: Stone sinks Boro hopes

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The Independent Online
Middlesbrough. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Nottingham Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . .2

IT was Boys' Own Paper stuff as a flashing header on his full debut by the 21-year-old reserve team player Steven Stone secured the points which lifted Nottingham Forest from bottom spot and two places up the Premier League. For Brian Clough, it was deja vu. Not only was this his team's third victory of the season over Middlesbrough, but it also means he still has not lost here as player or manager since leaving in 1961.

Lennie Lawrence has seen this situation before at Charlton, where he escaped from similar predicaments. But after a performance where they were often outplayed to an embarrassing degree, it is difficult to predict that Middlesbrough will remain in the Premier League. 'I need the best 11 players fit,' he said. 'I need one more in, and I need the confidence back we had in early season. We were just not good enough in the two penalty areas.'

Where his side smacked the ball firmly up towards Paul Wilkinson in the hope that something would ensue, Forest caressed it lovingly along the ground. They were too slick, too precise for the home side, and would have been two up by the break but for the alert Steven Pears, who was quick to smother close-range efforts from Nigel Clough and Gary Bannister.

Apart from a flurry in which Jon Gittens headed wide of a yawning goal, Middlesbrough produced only long-range danger, and when they glimpsed the whites of Mark Crossley's eyes the ball was whipped away from their toes by the cultivated Roy Keane, playing unusually for him in the back four.

As the hour approached Forest scored the goal they more than merited when Clough forced home the rebound from Bannister's low cross-shot. However, the lead was wiped out dramatically within 45 seconds as Jimmy Phillips' hopeful lob deceived Crossley and flew into his top left-hand corner. It was Middlesbrough's first goal in 420 minutes of football, but it was to count for nothing. In the 69th minute, Ian Woan drove his cross in hard and Stone, timing his run to perfection, did the rest.

Middlesbrough: S Pears; G Parkinson (C Morris, 73 min), J Phillips, D Whyte, J Gittens, A Peake, B Slaven, C Hignett (G Kavanagh, 73 min), P Wilkinson, C Kamara, T Wright. Sub not used: I Ironside (gk). Manager: L Lawrence.

Nottingham Forest: M Crossley; G Charles, S Chettle, S Stone, C Tiler, R Keane, T Orlygsson, S Gemmill, N Clough, G Bannister, I Woan. Subs not used: G Crosby, C Armstrong, A Marriott (gk). Manager: B Clough.

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow on Hill).

Goals: Clough (0-1, 59 min); Phillips (1-1, 60 min); Stone (1-2, 69 min).