Middlesbrough's inadequacies in front of goal are threatening to plunge their season into deeper gloom and Steve McClaren admits he needs a solution to the problem.
Following a dour goalless draw on Tuesday night that enforced a replay with Wimbledon for the right to face Manchester United in the fourth round of the FA Cup, McClaren confessed his interest in Dwight Yorke.
The Middlesbrough manager knows the 30-year-old Yorke well from his time as No 2 at Old Trafford. And Middlesbrough are in desperate need of a proven goalscorer as Tuesday night's match brought McClaren's side's scoring equation to just three in nine games since the five-goal beating of Derby on 3 November.
As a result, and despite their generally solid defence, the team are now just three points above the relegation zone.
Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu – absent on Tuesday with a groin problem – have been outstanding performers this season. But the strikers have let the side down and McClaren admitted: "Gianluca [Festa] and Gareth were magnificent [on Tuesday night] and with Ugo in the team that has been our platform, our bedrock. We obviously need to score more goals.
"We are trying everything possible. The strikers have shown they can score, but like any other area of the team they have to be confident to be at their best. But they can't do it alone, the whole team has to lift its game and compete."
Yorke is out of favour with Sir Alex Ferguson but whether United would be willing to part with him and whether Middlesbrough could afford him are two different matters.
"I know what a great player he is and what a great acquisition he would probably be for Middlesbrough," McClaren said. "At the moment it's a tentative enquiry. Obviously with the restrictions we've got at the club at the moment making funds available is difficult."
The top scorer Alen Boksic was due to return to training yesterday. The Croatian was laid low with flu over the new year but McClaren said he should be fit to face Fulham at the weekend alongside the Argentinian playmaker Carlos Marinelli, who also missed the Cup tie with an ankle injury.
"We felt Alen needed a couple more days training and that he would be better off getting that at the club in the next couple of days. Hopefully he will be back for Fulham and the rest of the games," McClaren said. Middlesbrough's reliance on Boksic was evident last season when the Croatian scored three times as many Premiership goals as any other player at the Riverside.
Should Middlesbrough beat Wimbledon in Tuesday's replay they will meet United in the fourth round.
"As it has been proved over the weekend Premiership teams can be knocked out and we are not one of them. We are still in the FA Cup," McClaren said. "The pressure is on the Premier League team to win these games and as it has been shown that that is not always the case. You need attitude and character to match what is being thrown at you and it was pleasing that we matched that."
For Wimbledon, who are struggling financially, the lure of another big pay-day remains. "The chairman did insist before the match that we took it to a replay, so we have done as we are told," Terry Burton, the Wimbledon manager, said.Reuse content