MIDDLESBROUGH have been hit by the news that in-form striker Lukas Jutkiewicz is facing a further spell on the sidelines.
Jutkiewicz must undergo scans to see if he needs a small operation on a knee injury suffered in training.
Initial assessments suggest that the problem is not a major worry, but he is still likely to be missing for the next few weeks at least.
That means manager Tony Mowbray will have to look at his options for this Saturday’s trip to Brighton, where Aussie striker Scott McDonald could be handed his first start since settling his differences with the coaching staff.
Jutkiewicz has only made four starts since recovering from ligament damage suffered on his other knee during the summer that required surgery.
The £1.5m buy from Coventry City has scored four goals in that run when Mowbray has had to do without forwards Marvin Emnes, Ishmael Miller, Curtis Main, Merouane Zemmama, Mustapha Carayol and McDonald at different times.
The Middlesbrough boss is hoping to have Miller available again this weekend after groin trouble, although there are still doubts about Emnes’ fitness.
The Dutchman has been allowed to return to Holland during the international break after being asked to play with a bruised foot at Watford in their last outing.
But with Middlesbrough among a very tight and extensive group of teams looking to stay in the hunt for promotion this season Mowbray knows he could do with as many attacking options as possible
He does have the option of playing both Adam Reach and Luke Williams, but he is reluctant to rely too heavily on the club’s academy graduates matches this season.
Mowbray has also hinted before that he will look at the loan market if he feels he is not bringing somebody in just for the sake of it.
Depending on the severity of the injuries currently hitting the squad bringing a loan player in could be a realistic option.
Middlesbrough head for Brighton, who sit fifth and two points above, this Saturday and then they face back-to-back home dates with tenth-placed Hull City and Bolton before the Capital One Cup tie at Sunderland on October 31.
And with Jutkiewicz, a target-man capable of scoring goals, likely to be out for those games then, not for the first time, Mowbray will have to change his attacking line-up once more.
Middlesbrough are also hoping full-backs Justin Hoyte (hamstring) and Stuart Parnaby (jaw) will be available for the trip to the south coast this week. Neither’s place on the bus is guaranteed, though.
Mowbray is more optimistic about two other key players. Both Jonathan Woodgate and Kevin Thomson are deemed possibilities after making good progress from a hamstring and swollen knee respectively.