After four successive defeats in the Championship, Boro head into back-to-back home dates and two victories would be the ideal way to stay in the hunt for automatic promotion.
For that to happen, though, manager Tony Mowbray needs to find a way of getting his forwards firing again and the focus has turned to Emnes in the absence of injured duo Scott McDonald and Ishmael Miller.
The former Holland Under- 21 international has scored just one goal since October – a penalty in the December win over Wolves.
He was booed by supporters after his ineffective display in the FA Cup win over Aldershot, merely the latest below par performance of the campaign from him.
Emnes could easily have moved on last week had Boro’s ambitious deadline day part-exchange offer to Swansea City for Danny Graham came off. He was also the subject of bids from the Swans last summer.
But Mowbray, drawing on the memory of last season when the front-man finished as leading scorer, is focused on trying to get the best out of a player with the potential to reignite the team’s stuttering promotion hopes.
“Marvin needs to be happy in his life to play to his best,”
said Mowbray. “He needs to come into work, smile, laugh and have fun with his mates.
When he is smiling around the building, you know everything is fine. When he is deep, sombre, he is ...
“We need Marvin Emnes at this moment. We need his talent, the way he plays, he is important to us because it is not necessarily the goals he scores it can be the little passes he puts through. The stuff people sometimes don’t see, his little touches, can keep moves going.
“I will be supportive of Marvin as much as I can. Whether he is on the pitch or off it .I will be supporting him. I will give him reasons why he is not playing if he is not playing.
We need to get him going again. We should not forget he got 18 goals for us last season.” Having had a couple of weeks to reflect on the jeers Emnes received from the Riverside crowd during the win over Aldershot, Mowbray hopes the same fans will give him a break against Barnsley tomorrow.
He said: “You have to support people in football. I will never say to our supporters to do this, or that, but when players are not hitting the heights they need support rather than criticism.
“People pay the money so they can say what the want, cheer or boo. But they want the team to do well so are there to support the team. We all want this club to do well.
“My job is to analyse where my players are. If I think a player needs a rest or to be taken out of the firing line and give somebody else an opportunity is just as important.
I will weigh things like that up throughout the week and on the training ground.”
The return of Mustapha Carayol after a four-month lay-off with a knee injury has at least given Boro an extra attacking option.
The former Bristol Rovers winger is unlikely to start tomorrow, but Mowbray is hoping his direct running can help reinvigorate an attack that has not scored two goals in a league match since December.
“Carayol can do things to get people off their seats, but he is still a young boy, he has not played a consistent number of games at this level in the Championship yet we shouldn’t forget that,” said Mowbray.
“Our team didn’t have his explosive bursts down the line last season. At home we couldn’t win a game last year because we didn’t have Emanuel Ledesma to step inside and travel or a Carayol to beat the full-back.
“He will get involved and we meant to get him involved last weekend at Ipswich but the game didn’t go the way I would have liked.”
While Carayol is fit to be considered, there will be a fitness test for Jonathan Woodgate.
Mowbray said: “Woody doesn’t actually have an injury but hasn’t trained all week. He is just a bit stiff. I will sit down with him and discuss it.”