From bad to mad

Middlesbrough 1 Mustoe 57 Nottingham Forest 1 Allen 56 Attendance: 29,392
Click to follow
The Independent Online
NOTTINGHAM FOREST may be the only English team in Europe but without Bryan Roy, Ian Woan and Steve Stone they are only half a team. This, added to Middlesbrough being becalmed in the worst run in their history, meant that not even one mad minute could obscure the fact that the other 89 here were very mundane.

Even though Boro became the first English club to start two Brazilians, the game was littered with misplaced passes, clumsy tackles, silly stumbles and desperate dives. The reserve referee Andy Butler - on in the 14th minute after Alan Wilkie was carried off - fell for many of them, but at least he collected seven names.

Branco sat just in front of Boro's flat back-four, demanding the ball at every opportunity. Yet Juninho could not respond to his promptings and Nick Barmby with his hair shorn and his confidence equally thin, was rarely seen. The return of Jamie Pollock did add some bite to midfield, but his bark was worse: he was the first booked in the seventh minute for berating a linesman.

Forest, meanwhile, were quite content to sit back and watch Middlesbrough flounder in front of them. Without Roy, the main feature of their attack was the Boro keeper Gary Walsh's woeful kicking and Paul McGregor's persistence. Between them they accumulated 10 first-half corners.

The mad minute came in the second half. John Hendrie had just pulled Middlesbrough's first real chance wide and Kevin Campbell had dwelt too long on Forest's first serious opening. Then Branco and Pollock contrived to lose the ball on the edge of the Forest area and Chris Bart-Williams led a four-on-three breakaway. He slipped in Campbell whose low cross was deflected for Chris Allen - a winger on loan from Oxford whom Frank Clark has been watching for five years - to cleverly back-flick home.

Within 20 seconds Boro had levelled matters. Straight from the kick-off, Barmby's cross was headed down by Hendrie for Robbie Mustoe to equalise.

The Forest manager, Frank Clark, appeared later to be genuinely disappointed at the result but for him there was the consolation of Tuesday's Uefa Cup quarter-final. "We've got one or two bad knocks but I don't imagine they will keep anyone out," he said "If today had been a Cup final,, Woan and Stone would probably have played."

For Middlesbrough's assistant manager, Viv Anderson, there was the consolation of a second point from 12 games. "If we get a point from each of the rest of our games we will be safe," he said. All of which was scant consolation for the mundanity which had gone before.