Juninho's strike makes Forest jump

Nottingham Forest 1 Pearce 68 Middlesbrough 1 Juninho 49 Att endance: 24,705
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The Independent Online
Last Saturday Middlesbrough had to thank their Italian import Fabrizio Ravanelli for earning them a share of the points, but yesterday it was their Brazilian connection which guaranteed them an X on the coupon. Juninho's third goal since his transfer last autumn gave Boro a lead early in the second half which their first-half composure had just about deserved.

Unfortunately for the Teesiders, the goal also stung Forest into a prolonged second-half assault which eventually yielded them an equaliser by way of a traditional Stuart Pearce thunderbolt. Indeed, Forest might well have gone on to win the game, with Boro being saved late, first by the post, then by a goal-line clearance and finally by an offside flag.

Neither team will be entirely satisfied with their performances, but the spirit showed by the rugged Boro defence in standing up to Forest's comeback, and the home team's refusal to settle for a point, will give both managers something to work on.

The evidence of a fairly dire, occasionally tetchy first half suggested that both teams should be judged on their midweek defeats rather than their opening-day performances. Certainly neither defence looked in the mood to concede much space, and the hat-trick men of last Saturday, Ravanelli and Kevin Campbell, did little to disturb them.

Forest's main problem seemed to be the absence of a playmaker in midfield. Chris Bart-Williams could never sum up the subtlety to unpick the Boro covering, and it was left to Forest's summer signing from Oxford, Chris Allen on the left wing, to createchances. An early cross had Curtis Fleming nearly fluffing a header back to the keeper Alan Miller, and when Allen won a free-kick, Stuart Pearce's drive flew across goal without a touch.

Boro were even more barren in terms of chances; Ravanelli's wasting of a free header from Nick Barmby's corner was their best. But what they lacked in terms of cutting edge was offset by their calm possession football. The inter-passing among Juninhio, Barmby and Ravanelli was delightful, but the Italian desperately needed more support.

Middlesbrough's goal, just after the restart, was deserved. Emerson had forced his way down the right and squirted the ball inside, where his compatriot Juninho hit a first-time shot inside Mark Crossley's left post.

Forest immediately took this as their cue to encamp in the Boro half, and the game at last came to life. A barrage of corners rained down on the Boro goalmouth, with one bundled effort being ruled out for a push on Miller. Forest's pressure finally told as Fleming and Steve Stone tangled on the Boro left.

From the resulting free-kick, Pearce arrowed an unstoppable curling shot into the top corner. Now set on winning, Forest poured forth in numbers, with Stone missing a sitter from 10 yards, Ian Woan skidding a shot against a post, and Kevin Campbell being flagged offside before his header hit the net.

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