Middlesbrough remain in the Championship’s relegation zone after Lewis Grabban’s late equaliser for Nottingham Forest denied Jonathan Woodgate’s side their first win for two months.
Boro goalkeeper Aynsley Pears claimed Grabban had fouled him as Forest’s top scorer poked in the leveller from close range with four minutes remaining, but referee Darren England waved away the hosts’ protests.
Ryan Yates’ low 20-yard shot put promotion-chasing Forest in front but Boro produced a stirring comeback before half-time.
Rudy Gestede nodded in Harold Moukoudi’s header back across goal from a set-piece to equalise and Lewis Wing finished off a swift counter-attack to give Boro a 2-1 lead – a scoreline which would have been enough to lift them out of the bottom three.
After Grabban’s 17th league goal of the season, the visitors almost grabbed a stoppage-time winner but Adama Diakhaby’s shot from the edge of the box was blocked away to safety by Ryan Shotton.
A play-off spot now looks most likely for Sabri Lamouchi’s team, who have a six-point advantage over seventh-placed Bristol City but are eight points behind second-placed Leeds with 10 games remaining.
Forest have taken only six points from the five games since they beat Leeds on 8 February to catapult themselves into serious contention for a top-two finish.
Public backing, but no win for Woodgate
Wigan’s surprise success at leaders West Bromwich Albion on Saturday had left Boro third from bottom and brought more scrutiny to the position of head coach Woodgate, whose side have now gone 12 games without a win in all competitions.
However, in an interview with Teesside Live on Monday, chairman Steve Gibson said Woodgate had his support “no matter what happens” and the club’s current predicament was “not the fault” of the former England centre-back.
After a tepid opening 30 minutes, Boro responded brightly to falling behind, with wide midfielder Hayden Coulson the catalyst for their fightback in the closing stages of the first period.
Coulson’s effort from the edge of the box almost produced an immediate equaliser and, after striker Gestede had levelled for the hosts, he was pivotal in the move that gave them the lead.
Pears claimed a cross and threw the ball out quickly to Coulson, whose driving run down the right touchline swept Boro up the pitch quickly before his square pass found Wing.
Forest keeper Brice Samba got a strong hand to Wing’s first-time attempt but there was enough power on the shot for it to cross the line.
There is sure to be disappointment at failing to hang on to all three points, but there were enough positives in their display to give Boro supporters hope of survival in the final weeks of the campaign.
Middlesbrough have not played in England’s third tier since 1986-87 and they have 10 games to ensure they do not drop to that level again next term.
Middlesbrough head coach Jonathan Woodgate told BBC Tees:
“I thought the decision at the end by the referee was the wrong decision. Nine out of 10 times, that gets given as a foul, but against us it doesn’t get given.
“I’m really frustrated because I thought we deserved the win. The players played well, at times we lacked a little bit of quality, but the fight was there.
“On another day, we get that decision. All I want is a bit of consistency. Sometimes you need a rub of the green at times and we didn’t get it.”
Nottingham Forest head coach Sabri Lamouchi told BBC Radio Nottingham:
“We are happy with this point but the way we played, the organisation, the mistakes, simple things, I’m not totally satisfied.
“It was the worst game away, because we never controlled the game, never. We started better than them but we never made the difference, with our quality.
“I don’t know what was wrong but if the fans are happy with a point, I’m happy with a point, but I’m not happy with the way we played.
“We need more character, more personality. Technically it was a very bad game and a very bad performance. We need more concentration and more focus.”