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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Big Match Preview

Middlesbrough vs. Nottingham Forest
Saturday November 21, 15:00, Riverside

Two Championship promotion contenders face one another in the North East this weeekend as Nottingham Forest take the division's sole unbeaten away record to Gordon Strachan's Middlesbrough.

For former Celtic boss Strachan this is just his third game in charge of the Teessiders after he replaced the sacked Gareth Southgate. Both his previous matches have ended in 1-0 defeats - to Plymouth and Crystal Palace - which have seen Boro drop down to 10th.

He'll be keen then to get a first win on the board and improve upon a home record which has seen them suffer four defeats and score just seven goals at the Riverside this term.

Strachan has tried to bolster his forward options this week with the signing of Stoke striker Dave Kitson on loan, and he'll be
linking up with former strike partner at Reading, Leroy Lita.

The new manager will also be hoping Kitson can help lift some of the weight off midfield maestro Adam Johnson.

The talented winger has been in impressive form for Boro and is the team's top scorer with nine goals, eight of them coming in the Championship. It's form which has seen the youngster linked with moves to Premier League clubs in January.

Midfielder Gary O'Neil has contributed goals from midfield and much of Boro's hopes are built on the central defensive partnership of Sean St Ledger and David Wheater.

They'll be in for a tough examination come Saturday as Billy Davies and a Forest side unbeaten in eight games come to Teeside. After a slow start, the wily Scot has got Forest challenging for the play-offs and they currently lie a point and two places above their opponents.

Tartan Army: Scots Strachan and Davies meet at the Riverside

Part of their success has come from that unbeaten away record which has seen them secure two wins and six draws from their eight trips on the road. Just six away goals conceded is only bettered by Swansea in the division too.

After a summer spending spree, Davies has one of the strongest squads in the division at his disposal, with an array of attacking options.

Forward Dexter Blackstock is top scorer with six, but the likes of Robert Earnshaw, Dele Adebola, Nathan Tyson, and Radoslaw Majewski have all chipped in with goals this season.

However, it's arguably the performances of winger Paul Anderson which have really been catching fans' attentions at the City Ground. The former Liverpool man has been in blistering form as Forest have recovered after a slow start to the season.

Forest will be confident therefore of returning to the East Midlands on Saturday evening with something to show for their efforts. Davies's side are bang in form and face a Boro team who are going through a transition under their new boss.

However, the international break may have come at the wrong time for Forest, and they may have to settle for a fourth successive Championship draw.

Nobes' Prediction: Middlesbrough 1 Nottingham Forest 1

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