Aitor Karanka hails Freedman factor ahead of Forest v Middlesbrough

WELL DONE PAL: Middlesbrough's Jelle Vossen is congratulated by Patrick Bamford after scoring in the win over Millwall

WELL DONE PAL: Middlesbrough's Jelle Vossen is congratulated by Patrick Bamford after scoring in the win over Millwall

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AITOR Karanka is braced for an acid test of Middlesbrough’s promotion credentials at Nottingham Forest tomorrow.

Forest have undergone an incredible transformation under new boss Dougie Freedman, who has lifted a team sliding down the table to one just three places outside the play-off places

If Forest had sold 7,000 [away] tickets we would probably take 7,000 fans

AITOR KARANKA

It is a big ask for the City Ground side to break into the top six from 11 points back but the Freedman factor has been incredible and they pose a serious danger to the league leaders tomorrow.

Karanka admits he is a big admirer of Forest and Freedman.

The former Bolton boss won five and drew one of his first six games in charge, Forest scoring 19 goals in the process.

Their amazing run was ended in midweek with a 2-1 defeat at 12th-placed Charlton but Karanka is aware of the threat at the City Ground (kick-off 3pm).

“With their new manager, they are much better than they were one month ago,” said the Boro head coach.

“They have very good players and they are more organised now.

“Forest have an amazing squad, they have their organisation and are at home and it’s going to be a very tough game.

“I have a good relationship with Dougie and I am pleased for him, he’s done a very good job.”

Boro returned to the top spot on Tuesday night thanks to a 3-0 win over Millwall, a scoreline which gives them an equal second-best goal difference figure of 29 along with title rival Derby.

But such is the competitive state of the division, if they don’t win at the City Ground they could easily drop out of the automatic promotion places.

Boro are only one point above Derby and the Championship’s top scorers, Watford.

Karanka again paid tribute to the Boro fans who have taken up their full allocation of tickets for the ninth time this season.

“The support is amazing,” said the Spaniard in an interview with BBC Tees. “If Forest had sold 7,000 [away] tickets we would probably take 7,000 fans.

“This is the moment in the season when we need this support.”

Boro are chasing the double over Forest, having blitzed them in the second half on Boxing Day, winning 3-0 in front of a crowd of over 32,000.

Jelle Vossen, who scored the second goal that afternoon, and netted in Tuesday night’s 3-0 romp over Millwall is in contention to start.

Karanka has maintained his rotation policy and the Belgian striker could be promoted from the bench.