STEVE McClaren last night promised to step up Danny Graham's contract talks after the teenage striker scored his first Premiership goal to earn Middlesbrough a dramatic 2-2 draw with Charlton.

The 19-year-old, who spent a large chunk of last season on loan at Darlington, had only been on the field for four minutes when he latched onto Franck Queudrue's through ball before heading over goalkeeper Dean Kiely.

His commendable composure was matched by evident desire as, after Chris Perry burst his lip as his boot connected with the striker's face, Graham was left with no recollection of his last-gasp leveller.

The Gateshead-born teenager was on Newcastle's books as a youngster but, after failing to make the grade at St James' Park, he was spotted by Middlesbrough's scouts while playing local league football for Chester-le-Street.

His Boro debut came as a substitute at Old Trafford in October and, after scoring in the same month's Carling Cup win over Coventry, a host of Football League clubs have been badgering McClaren about taking him on loan.

The Boro boss has turned all of them down and, after watching Graham's stock rise even further yesterday, he is determined to keep the youngster at the Riverside when his current contract expires in three months' time.

"He's one of those players that's not particularly stylish," said McClaren, who has used Graham as a substitute in four of his side's last five league games. "He's an old-fashioned type of centre-forward who's always there or thereabouts.

"You need to be on the spot to have a chance to score - he normally is and that's why his rise has been so dramatic. When you're on the spot, you will score goals.

"He's out of contract at the end of the season, but we hope he will sign a new deal. We've been talking to him and we think we're quite close now.

"We're quite keen to keep him because we think he can do very well. We've had other teams looking to take him on loan, but he's training with the first-team squad every day and we're delighted with the way he's coming on."

Graham's goal deflected some of the criticism away from yet another sub-standard Middlesbrough display on the back of a European outing.

McClaren's players looked leggy after their exertions against Grazer AK on Thursday and twice switched off as Charlton went close to stealing all three points.

Boro have now won just one of their ten Sunday fixtures this season, and their boss conceded that playing in the UEFA Cup is beginning to affect his side's Premiership performance level.

"That's the price you pay for being in Europe," admitted McClaren. "It's very difficult when you play after a European game. You play a game on a Thursday and, two days later, you're playing again with more or less the same players.

"We don't have the luxury of a nice seven-day break between games. We just go from game to game really.

"We may not have won many games on a Sunday, but we haven't lost many either. I thought we deserved to beat Charlton, but to salvage a point showed fantastic character from the players.

"But for Dean Kiely - who made five or six outstanding saves - we would have won.

"I think we deserved to because of the way we dominated the game."