The Middlesbrough manager, Steve McClaren, will settle for the ugliest of goals if it gets his side through to the Carling Cup semi-finals.
Boro head for a quarter-final tie at Tottenham tonight without a goal from one of their own players in nine hours of football, and with none of their strikers having scored in open play since 29 October.
It took two memorable strikes from Newcastle's Laurent Robert to force Spurs on to the back foot in the Premiership at the weekend but McClaren admits that a scruffy, scrambled goal will be enough for him at White Hart Lane.
"You look at some of the goals you saw at the weekend and you see Michael Duberry's for Leeds, which he didn't know much about, and you think 'can we just have one of those, please?', just to start the ball rolling again," he said. "We're all frustrated at the performances we've had over the last three or four games. But, while we're not playing well, we've got to work through this. We've got to keep doing the right things and eventually, it will turn. In the meantime, we're still picking up points and still getting through in cup games."
Boro have scored only once in their last five games, and that was a Sun Jihai own goal at Manchester City, and have drawn blanks in their last four games at the Riverside. That has left the home fans understandably disappointed with McClaren having invested some £12m in strikers in the last 18 months alone.
However, the club have lost just two of their last 14 games in all competitions and conceded a miserly four goals, including a run of seven successive clean sheets.
"My job is to get results for this football club and to take them as high as possible," McLaren said. "Everybody differs in their opinion as to how to do it, but the facts are two defeats in 14 games. We've kept 11 clean sheets in those 14 games. But we're not scoring and I would say, especially in the last three or four games, we've not played as well as we had done previously. We've not played the type of football that we like to play, that we've played before, and we can get better. I know that, the players know that, the fans know that.
"That's some run, 14 games and two defeats and no defeats in the last nine games. For a club like us, that's a very, very good run and you always know that at some stage, that has to come to an end. But we can't keep going not playing well and expect not to lose games - we have to start playing good football again."
McClaren has injury worries with Gaizka Mendieta struggling with a sore toe, while the defender Danny Mills has a similar illness to the one which kept Colin Cooper out of Saturday's draw with Charlton. Doriva (ankle) and Juninho (hamstring) remain doubts, but Ugo Ehiogu and Stuart Parnaby are included in the squad after playing 90 minutes for the reserves on Monday, and Stewart Downing joins them after returning from his loan at Sunderland.
Tottenham, meanwhile, held a special team meeting yesterday in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the defensive errors they made at the weekend against Middlesbrough tonight. David Pleat's side were beaten 4-0 at Newcastle on Saturday, leaving the players and staff in a miserable mood for the club Christmas party at the Park Lane Hilton in the capital that night.
The centre-back Ledley King revealed that Pleat reacted to defeat by calling a meeting for the players where they discussed what had gone wrong. "We've had a meeting about it," King said. "We spoke about it and can't let it happen again this season. We now have a great opportunity against Middlesbrough to get to a semi-final and we're looking forward to it. We're confident at home and hope to get at them early and make them find us hard to cope with."
Spurs had a busy day on the contract front yesterday, tying Rohan Ricketts to a new deal until 2007 and securing Paul Konchesky's services for a fourth month on loan from Charlton Athletic. Ricketts, 21 on Monday, signed a one-year contract extension. Konchesky signed a one-month loan extension.
Pleat is not expecting any of Tottenham's injured quartet of players - Simon Davies (thigh), Bobby Zamora (Achilles), Jamie Redknapp or Christian Ziege, who both have knee problems, - to return.
- More about:
- Middlesbrough FC
- Newcastle United
- Steve McClaren
- The Carling Cup
- Tottenham Hotspur