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Preview: Forest V Middlesbrough

Ahead of the big game against Middlesbrough on Saturday after two wins on the road, we spoke to Boro fan and Middlesbrough Evening Gazette writer Anthony Vickers about the opposition.

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Just the one defeat so far to (perhaps surprisingly) Bristol City but since then, four straight wins and undefeated away. Are you daring to dream yet? Are you all aglow with excitement like a kid who's had Ready Brek for breakfast?

AV: Boro have spent heavily and wisely in the summer so there was a lot of very unusual optimism going into the season but the Bristol City defeat was a bitter blow. Not just because Boro lost but way - a rock bottom side nicks one then digs in against an 80 minute fruitless onslaught - seemed to be straight off the template of a familar fatal flaw that cost Boro last year. Results and morale has picked up since then but Forest is a traditional jinx - one win in 22 - so winning there could see the more exciteable starting to their title winning tattoos.

Who are what lies behind this quietly impressive start to the season? Is it too simplistic to put it down to a determined reaction from the play off final defeat?

AV: The start has been solid but not spectacular as the new players bed in. Boro look good this year because they seem to have addressed last year's structural problems. Boro had the best defence in the division last year but lacked teeth up front, squandered a lot of chances and couldn't kill off teams in games they dominated. This year the back six (two holding midfielders) remains the same while almost the entire front end has been reshaped with Karanka signing proven quality strikers.

How's Daniel Ayala faring up there? A rock upon which the defence is constructed or a ball playing centre half who can't quite pass the ball as accurately as he thinks with a belter of a mistake in him once every 4 games?

AV: Daniel Ayala is an absolute rock. Playing regularly has helped polish him into a very astute defender, physical when necessary but he has great positional awareness and can play a bit too. He added much needed height in the opposition box too and scored a few from corners. He's very popular with the fans.

The team boasts a truly impressive collection of beards. Is it hipster central or more like old fashioned manly grafting facial hair at the core of the team?

AV: Beards? Not us. There was a smattering last season but it didn't last long. Its a long way from the pop-up beard-oil shops of Shoreditch There's only really Adam Clayton who is a lumber-jack body double and Greek keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos  who is one of those blokes who shave three times a day and still have stubble.

You're due a win at the City Ground - fancy it on Saturday? How are you when you're on TV and in early kick-offs? Any historical precedents?

AV: Due a win? Once since the millennium. In fact once since the UK joined the Common Market and Slade first released Merry Xmas Everyone. So yes, we are due one. Of the last seven we've lost five and draw two.  Our record with lunchtime kick-offs last season wasn't great with damaging away defeats at Bournemouth and Watford. We even lost at home to a woeful Leeds. There are a lot of hoodoos going to smashed.

Give us a reason why Boro will win.

AV: ... strong at the back, now with added teeth - and Stuani is an absolute machine

Give us a reason why Boro will lose.

AV: ... the weight of history.

A huge thank you to Anthony who can be followed here. He is responsible for this match report from 2013 that got right under the skin of a certain Mr Billy Davies - worth a read: