MIDDLESBROUGH manager Steve McClaren could be about to hand striker Noel Whelan a rare Premiership start.

Whelan, who returned from injury as a substitute in the defeat by Manchester United last week, is pressing hard to make the first 11 against Fulham on Saturday.

Boro have only managed to find the net once - a fortunate winner for Alen Boksic at Blackburn - in more than 450 minutes of action.

And after impressing for the 26 minutes he played against the champions, Whelan could find himself the player the Boro boss hopes will end their goal famine.

Szilard Nemeth was rested against United after just one Premiership goal in eight games and Hamilton Ricard was his replacement.

Croatian Alen Boksic is unlikely to be dropped because of his undoubted talent, but as he is struggling for form McClaren is keen to try different options.

Whelan, whose last top-flight start came in April's 0-0 draw with Sunderland, believes he can get Boro back on the scoring trail.

He said: "I have watched the team develop all season, now it's great to be a part of it again and I hope I can start to put things right on the scoring front for me and the team.

"We work very hard at stopping the other team playing, closing them down and then going from there, but I'm not too sure why we can't score with the players we have here.

"Alen Boksic, Hamilton Ricard and Szilard Nemeth have all proved in the past that they're prolific strikers. There's no lack of forwards at this place and we may all get our chance this season.

"If we do it's up to us to make the best of it. But I'm sure the goals will come."

The forward, who can also play in midfield, was signed by former manager Bryan Robson for £2.2m but he has yet to score a goal in the top-flight since his arrival in August 2000.

Should McClaren include the 26-year-old in the starting line-up come the weekend, the former United No 2 is confident his side can come good in front of goal.

"It is a concern that we are not scoring," said McClaren, whose side have lost their last two matches, to Liverpool and the Red Devils.

"But it's not over-worrying because I believe we have the players who can do it."

* Middlesbrough midfielder Sean Kilgannon has joined Scottish Premier League side Dunfermline on a three-month loan.

Boro defender Christian Hanson, also 20, has had his loan spell at Third Division Torquay extended by another month.

Hanson played three games for the Plainmoor club during his first month in Devon.

Read more about the Boro here.