KENNETH OMERUO thinks Middlesbrough’s forwards have the attributes to end their horrendous goal-drought provided they overcome the psychological barrier after such a barren spell.
Middlesbrough’s record busting run without finding the net has now extended to 11 hours and 44 minutes ahead of Ipswich Town arriving at the Riverside Stadium this weekend and manager Aitor Karanka admitted he was 'worried and angry' following the latest frustration.
The failure to score since mid-January has meant the good work Middlesbrough have been doing defensively has not earned the rewards it should have done.
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That was the case at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, when the Owls finally broke stubborn resistance by scoring a penalty through Atdha Nuhiu with just three minutes remaining.
And Karanka's decision to bring back Craig Hignett, a former attacking midfielder for the club, from Hartlepool as his new assistant manager will be in the hope that he can bring an attacking influence on the training ground.
Before that Middlesbrough had a few chances and would have actually scored when Jacob Butterfield’s shot was deemed to not to have crossed the line when, according to Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, it had.
That was an indication even luck has conspired against Middlesbrough, who have lacked a cutting edge in front of goal despite the arrival of Danny Graham on loan from Sunderland on January 31.
“We just have to focus and don't let it get into our head that we have to score, we have to concentrate and try to take our chances,” said Omeruo. “The trainer tries to tell us to calm down and take our chances when we get them.
“It's a good idea from him because if we try to force it, the strikers are under more pressure and it makes it more difficult. I think it's the right decision for us to concentrate and try to get a goal.
“After Saturday’s game nobody said anything. We knew we had more times to score to win the game. We have to win these games otherwise it is going to haunt us.
“We're going to go back out and try to win it for the fans, because they deserve it. We are trying to score, the selection of the team focused on getting a win, but unfortunately it wasn't to be. We have to get better.”
Middlesbrough looked solid at the back against Hillsborough even though it was the first match since Shay Given’s return to Aston Villa following the end of his loan.
Given had kept ten clean sheets in his 16 appearances during his three months for the club and there was always going to be a spotlight on his replacement.
Despite the return to fitness of Jason Steele following an injury lay-off, manager Aitor Karanka opted to name Tomas Mejias between the posts and Dimi Konstanopoulos on the bench. That surprised many fans.
Omeruo felt Mejias, on loan from Real Madrid for the rest of the season, had an impressive debut even though he misjudged a cross in the build up to the move which led to Sheffield Wednesday’s penalty.
The defender said: “It was brilliant. Tomas did well, he stopped a lot of shots and he's experienced – he did well. Jason is a good goalkeeper as well, sometimes the decision comes from the manager, all the goalkeepers are brilliant and it's a tough decision for the manager to make.”
Omeruo, 20, has big ambitions to go to the World Cup this summer and he thinks his spell at Middlesbrough will make him a better player. He also hopes Jose Mourinho will have noticed his progress when he returns to Chelsea.
“Playing well for Middlesbrough will definitely be good for my international career,” he said. “When I go back to Chelsea this move will have benefited me, certainly.
“I know what it takes to play in England now, I know what is expected of me, I know when to keep the ball, when not to take risks and I'm doing well here. They play good football here, it's helping me. I try to give my best in every game, everyone was fighting for each other which is important.”
* Craig Hignett and Aitor Karanka took in Middlesbrough Under-21s’ 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa at the Riverside last night.
Graham Burke put the Villans a goal up just after the half hour before adding a second in the 56th minute with a neat header through Janoi Donacien.
Jason Steele was between the posts for Boro, while Luke Williams – who impressed during his loan with Hartlepool under Hignett – started in attack.
Middlesbrough: Steele; Tinkler (Helm 79), Coleby, Weledji, Meling, Waters, Jones, Maloney (Sirrell 78), Fewster (McCarthy 78), Kitching, Williams. Subs (not used): Fryer (gk), Griffiths.