Verdict: Returning Aitor Karanka fails to halt Middlesbrough

Aitor Karanka: Enjoyed fine reception.
Aitor Karanka: Enjoyed fine reception.
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Aitor Karanka was touched by the reception he got from Middlesbrough’s fans, even if his return to the Riverside Stadium ended in defeat for his Nottingham Forest team.

Karanka was making his first appearance on Teesside since leaving in March, 2017 but was unable to prevent a defeat which keeps Boro in the play-off zone.

Daniel Ayala and Stewart Downing struck in the seventh and 31st minutes, leaving Karanka remembering the reception he got from fans when he entered his technical area for the first time.

Karanka said: “It was really nice and it has been a difficult week to prepare everything. There are a lot of good memories and I did not have any doubt that we love each other because when I came here I felt a really hungry club and when I left, it was in the Premier League and everyone was enjoying the Premier League.”

Boro manager Tony Pulis said: “I was pleased with the first half, I thought we played really well with the movement of the ball and the position we got into and the opportunities and chances. But the one disappointing thing was that half-time came, because it stopped the momentum which sometimes happens.

“There are five games to go. We spend far too much time in this country worrying about everyone else and what they are doing instead of concentrating on your own lives and I can only affect what happens here – and that is what I have told the players.

“We just have to focus on ourselves. The important thing is we remain focused and do our best and the players understand that.”

Middlesbrough: Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Howson, Leadbitter, Besic (Clayton 63), Traore (Assombalonga 81), Bamford (Cranie 89), Downing. Unused substitutes: Konstantopoulos, Da Silva, Fry, Harrison.

Nottingham Forest: Pantilimon, Darikwa, Tobias Figueiredo, Fox, Osborn, Watson, Colback, Dowell (McKay 59), Tomlin, Lolley, Vellios (Brereton 59). Unused substitutes: Lichaj, Mancienne, Guedioura, Bridcutt, Kapino.

Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).