Steve Cotterill secured Nottingham Forest’s first home win of the season in his first game in charge following a confident 2-0 victory over high-flying Middlesbrough.
Goals from Marcus Tudgay and Lewis McGugan were enough to beat a Middlesbrough team that had boasted an unbeaten start to the season and the best defensive record in the league prior to the game.
Perhaps as significant as the win was the calm defensive display shown by Forest, who in contrast to Boro, had the worst defensive record in the league but didn’t show it on a night when they rarely looked like conceding.
The City Ground greeted new boss Cotterill to a rapturous reception as he emerged out of the tunnel and applauded the 20,630 supporters from the side of the pitch in front of a large amount of photographers.
And the crowd continued to generate a great atmosphere as the game kicked off at a high tempo with both sides attacking the others’ defence at great speeds in an end to end opening.
Forest’s Tudgay had the first opening of the game, seizing on a piece of lacklustre defending by Boro’s Seb Hines in the fourth minute before lashing the ball well wide from the edge of the area.
Tudgay led the line as Forest pressed and harried the Boro defence high up the pitch, with the away team seemingly content to play defensive as their deep 4-5-1 formation resulted in the high tempo start to the game fizzling out.
There was no such drop in pace on the touchline however, as the new Forest boss patrolled his technical area and barked out instructions in complete contrast to the former Reds manager Steve McClaren.
A rare forage forward by striker Ishmael Miller provided a rare attack in a scrappy opening half an hour as the Forest striker turned 30 yards out and powered down the right wing before crossing impatiently into an empty box instead of waiting for support.
There was no such impatience shown by Miller in the 35th minute however, as he combined with McGugan to launch an attack that gave Forest the lead with a scintillating team goal.
There seemed little danger when McGugan received the ball in the centre of the opposition’s half. But following a quick one-two with Miller, the Nottingham born midfielder threaded a delightful ball along the ground to full back Chris Gunter who drilled a first time cross into the six-yard box where Tudgay had the easiest of tasks to tap the ball into the net.
Cue wild scenes in the Forest technical area as the animated Cotterill leaped down the touchline towards the Trent End and punched the air as if Forest had won the FA Cup.
With their tails up, Forest created another chance immediately afterwards as a brilliant corner by McGugan was met by captain Luke Chambers, who lashed the ball towards goal at the second time of asking, with Miller inadvertently deflecting it narrowly over the crossbar.
The imperious McGugan caused havoc in the Boro defence yet again in the final minute of the half as his teasing ball was only just turned wide by defender Tony McMahon.
Forest nearly blew all of their good defensive work inside the first minute of the second half however, as a brilliant free kick by Barry Robson was headed inches wide by Nicky Bailey as three Boro players queued up at the back post to score.
Forest made another mistake in the 53rd minute, this time going forward, as Mcgugan broke through two tackles before shooting wide from the edge of the area when Miller was in a better position to score.
McGugan made no mistake two minutes later however, as he collected the ball from midfielder Guy Moussi, danced through two challenges and smashed an unstoppable drive into the top corner from the edge of the box to make it 2-0.
Forest’s attack looked really pumped up and Boro’s defence shaky as wave after wave of Forest attack was cleared with the Reds searching for the third goal that would kill off the tie.
And they should have had it, when another brilliant cross from McGugan in the 62nd minute was met by defender Wes Morgan seven yards out but the big defender headed just wide.
A rare Middlesbrough attack in the 75th minute nearly created a tense finale to the game as a fine through ball by midfielder Kevin Thomson found Justin Hoyte, whose first time effort was brilliantly smothered by goalkeeper Lee Camp.
This turned out to be the last scare for the Forest defence as Cotterill made a flurry of late substitutions to close out the game, with man of the match McGugan receiving a standing ovation as he was replaced by Jonathan Greening in the 80th minute.
The crowd cheered every successful pass made by Forest in the last few minutes and celebrated at the final whistle as Forest claimed their fourth clean sheet of the season and more importantly their first home win with Cotterill opening his Forest account with a win at the first time of asking.