Middlesbrough were flat, putting in a below-par performance and conceding at home for the first time this season as former Boro boss Aitor Karanka saw his Nottingham Forest side win comfortably.
Current manager Tony Pulis said: “I don’t think anybody saw that performance coming, but that’s the way the league is.
“We’re not going to be perfect every week and it brings everybody down to earth in respect of the expectations. It’s a tough league and everybody in every game turns up. We need to be much more clinical and we need to do something in that respect in the final third.”
Boro were on the back foot from the off though Forest did not score until early in the second half, Joe Lolley firing home after Daniel Ayala had been turned in the centre of the pitch by Daryl Murphy. At 1-0 Pulis made a triple substitution with Britt Assombalonga among those sent on, but the former Forest striker missed a great chance.
Pulis added: “I thought we started really, really poorly, the first 20 minutes we were like a bag of potatoes. We were so sloppy and so on the back foot, we never, never got going.
“The goal was a dreadful goal and very unlike us. Then you need to score, you need to get back into the game as quickly as you can and the big, big point, the turning point was Britt’s chance.
“I think if Britt scores then on, what was it – 60-odd minutes? – then it’s a different atmosphere and a different approach from the team.”
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Flint, Friend, Howson, Saville, Besic (Clayton 61), Downing, Hugill (Assombalonga 60), Braithwaite (Gestede 61). Unused substitutes: McQueen, Batth, Konstantopoulos, McNair.
Nottingham Forest: Pantilimon, Darikwa, Dawson (Tobias Figueiredo 37), Fox, Robinson, Colback, Watson, Gil Dias, Joao Carvalho (Osborn 83), Lolley, Murphy (Grabban 72). Unused substitutes: Janko, Guedioura, Cash, Steele.
Referee: J Brooks (Leicestershire).