IF Middlesbrough are to force their way back into the Championship promotion picture then Tony Pulis knows exactly what his players need to start doing – score more.

Even though he has only just got through his first full month in charge of Boro his post-match comments demanding his forwards find the net have become a familiar theme.

Pulis has every right too. While he might have successfully got Middlesbrough more organised at the back and looking like there is a method to the way they play, there is no disguising the fact the goals have dried up.

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There might have been a couple of away dates where Middlesbrough have scored three times – at Queens Park Rangers and Preston – but even then there was not even a single goal among them to have been converted by a striker.

Daniel Ayala, hardly renowned for finding the net, is Middlesbrough’s top scorer under the new manager having scored half of those six away from the Riverside.

When a striker has got on the scoresheet under Pulis it was when Rudy Gestede and Martin Braithwaite both did so against Sunderland in the FA Cup.

Other than those, Adama Traore finally grabbed his only goal in a Middlesbrough shirt, left-back George Friend powered one in at Loftus Road and midfielder Jonny Howson grabbed one against Preston.

Middlesbrough have created plenty of chances under Pulis and he will hope that things will take a turn for the better against Reading this weekend – or that six point gap to the play-off places will soon increase.

Having sanctioned the departure of the club’s second top scorer Braithwaite, who had five in the Championship before moving to Bordeaux, and missing out on adding an extra option on deadline day (Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic was one targeted), the focus is on the three front-men Pulis’ has had his disposal.

The Northern Echo:

BRITT ASSOMBALONGA

The last of Assombalonga’s 12 goals arrived before the turn of the year, when Pulis was sat in the stands for the victory over Bolton on Boxing Day.

He does not look anywhere near as confident as he did, perhaps an indication that he seemed an automatic starter under Garry Monk and is feeling the strain.

The £15m man has still had the best form of the three remaining strikers over a longer period of time, though, so would seem the best option unless one of the other two suddenly comes good in front of goal.

The Northern Echo:

PATRICK BAMFORD

Bamford has appeared in 27 games this season and 13 have been starts in the Championship. He has hardly played through the middle, and he would argue that needs to change if he is to score more goals.

The 24-year-old’s only league goal this season was in the win over Ipswich in December – a far cry from a few years ago when he was the division’s player of the year with a glut of goals that helped Boro to the play-off final in 2015.

A lack of football during loan stints with Crystal Palace, Norwich and Burnley clearly took its toll and it will be hoped the increased game-time will see him return to his best. He is still young enough.

The Northern Echo:

RUDY GESTEDE

Gestede is the sort of striker you would expect to see in a Pulis team. He is good in the air, a nuisance with his strength and works hard.

The big problem he has is that he isn’t scoring the goals. He started the season well before picking up a freak training ground injury, and has since found himself back in favour under the new boss.

The 29-year-old is available again for the visit of Reading after having his red card overturned and it is a big call on whether to keep him in the side; if he does he needs to score.

The former Blackburn and Aston Villa man has not scored in the league since August.

He is the only lone striker to have scored during Pulis’ spell in charge, albeit in the FA Cup against Sunderland. How Middlesbrough need him to come good now.