TONY MOWBRAY is working on a list of targets to replace Leroy Lita at the Riverside Stadium after the striker completed his £1.75m switch to Swansea City.
Lita penned a three-year deal at the Liberty Stadium yesterday and revealed the prospect of another chance at the Premier League lured him away from Teesside.
But the 26-year-old’s departure has left a gaping hole in the Boro’s first team, where Mowbray now only has Scott McDonald, Marvin Emnes and Lee Miller as recognised strikers with Championship experience.
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The Boro boss has had a number of forwards in his thinking throughout the summer in readiness for the day when he might be able to bring someone new in.
And while a further departure, preferably for decent money, would provide him with funds to strengthen his squad, Mowbray is already weighing up his options in the transfer market.
Mowbray has shown an interest in Ishmael Miller, who he signed during his time in charge at West Brom.
But the 24-year-old, on substantial wages in Championship terms, is keen to see whether he is given a chance under Roy Hodgson at the Hawthorns in the Premier League this season.
Miller has already turned down a chance to join Millwall on loan and is interesting Nottingham Forest, so Hodgson is prepared to let the former Manchester City man go. At this stage, though, a deal with Boro only seems likely if an agreement can be reached over paying part of the player’s wages.
Mowbray is satisfied Mc- Donald and Emnes could forge a decent partnership, but he would prefer alternative attacking options with the start of the season just two days away.
He indicated last week that there are unlikely to be any new additions to the squad before Saturday’s opener with Portsmouth.
But he will be working behind the scenes to strengthen his pool of players in the early stages of the season, even if it may need a further sale to boost his hand.
Mowbray had been banking on Lita leaving to help his cause and will have been relieved to see the deal go through.
The former Reading and England Under-21s forward is not thought to have received a pay increase to head to the Liberty Stadium, but Mowbray felt the lure of Premier League football should have been greater than money.
And Lita, who has spent two years with Boro since Gareth Southgate signed him as a free agent, has admitted he has been waiting for another crack at the top-flight.
After 20 goals in 78 league appearances for Middlesbrough, he said: “I have been waiting for this chance for a while to get back to that level.
Now I have to prove myself again at that level and I’m looking forward to it.
“To be finally here again is a great feeling.
“I believe in myself and now I am here, there are good players, we have a great squad, we could really push on and surprise a few people.”
Boro left-back Joe Bennett has been given the go-ahead to press for a starting role against Portsmouth.
Bennett has been struggling with a hamstring problem in the last three pre-season matches but has been passed fit to figure this weekend.
Main, a summer signing from Darlington, claimed a hat-trick in the space of five second-half minutes as Boro’s second string recovered from going a goal behind.
Luke Williams scored Boro’s other two goals, and will hope to have pushed his claims for a place in the senior squad for Saturday.