A Striking Dilemma
After it emerged that Middlesbrough’s leading goalscorer Leroy Lita had picked up a severe hamstring tear during the side’s goalless draw with Portsmouth, Tony Mowbray has found himself with a dilemma on his hands.
Having already reduced his options up top by letting Old Firm flop Kris Boyd go out on loan to Nottingham Forest as part of the deal to bring goalkeeper Paul Smith in the other direction, the manager has a limited choice of forwards.
Mowbray also limited his options further by letting Strachan signing Lee Miller go out on loan to Scunthorpe earlier in the campaign. The £500,000 signing, who has only made a handful of Boro appearances, has hardly been value for money.
Lita’s most regular strike partner in recent weeks has been Aussie front man Scott McDonald, who’s place in the team is all but assured after some encouraging performances alongside 10 goal man Lita.
By any standards it must be said however that the front line as a whole has failed to live up to expectations this season as aside from Lita, McDonald only has eight goals this term, Boyd pitched in with six and the rest barely have that between them.
Hard working Dutchman Marvin Emnes has looked a more mature player following his return from a successful loan spell at Swansea but his performances have yet to yield the goals that they deserve, although Mowbray seems keen to use him more as an impact substitute recently.
The former sprinter has however been a willing runner and has contributed a number of assists although many of them came alongside Lita but then again Emnes still has to convince many that he has that killer instinct in front of goal.
Another possible strike partner for McDonald, should Mowbray continue to employ a 4-4-2 formation, is Moroccan international attacker Merouane Zemmama who can play in midfield or up top.
Again Zemmama has been described by Mowbray as an ‘impact substitute’, which in fairness has worked more recently as the diminutive attacker earned Boro a vital last gasp winner against fellow strugglers Derby County two games ago.
Other than that few other names have been mentioned as in the running to partner McDonald although one man who has found himself out in the cold could have an outside chance of making the line up.
Estonian winger Tarmo Kink, who won fans over earlier this season with two fantastic late strikes to sink Burnley at the Riverside, is yet another to be tagged with that ‘impact substitute’ label even though the 25-year-old hasn’t featured at all in recent weeks.
After being dubbed ‘the Tallinn Torpedo’ following his Burnley crackers, Kink has only been a bit part player for the Reds despite Mowbray conceding that he has undoubted talent that is not always directed in the right way.
He told the club’s official website: “He (Kink) has a very obvious talent but he has to learn and understand the mentality that's needed to be a success in the Championship.
“To be fair, he wants to prove he can be a success here and I'm happy to give him that opportunity.”
Saturday’s game against Watford at the Riverside will be a real test for Mowbray’s men particularly as that leaky defence will have to face off against Championship top scorer and former Boro player, Danny Graham.
The promotion contenders have defied their small budget all season through their league exploits and Mowbray’s attacking decisions against them could well be a sign of things to come if Lita fails to return before the end of the campaign.
At this vital point in the season Boro certainly need someone to step up and fulfil Lita’s goal getting attitude and hopefully whoever comes in from the cold to get that chance will snap it up and grab a goal or two.
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(Follow me on Twitter - @j_cbrown)