MIDDLESBROUGH have given up on trying to lure Jordan Rhodes to the Riverside Stadium ahead of three fixtures which will go a long way in determining the Championship promotion race.

Head coach Aitor Karanka insists that he has the strikers capable of coming good at just the right time to power Boro back to the Premier League.

Karanka did not want to talk directly about Rhodes – deeming his interest as “just speculation” - but did confirm that he is keeping his options open on the transfer front with ten matches remaining.

Rhodes scored the winning goal for Blackburn against Bolton on Wednesday night after Boro had failed to reach an agreement over the terms of a deal. The Teessiders had hoped to lure the 25-year-old on loan with a view to a permanent £10m deal in the summer if they went up.

But Blackburn feared that could turn out to be a poor deal depending on end of season placings, leaving Boro shaping up for tomorrow’s visit of Ipswich without a new option to turn to in attack.

Karanka insists the situation does not concern him and that Kike, Jelle Vossen and Patrick Bamford all have the ability to spearhead the charge back to the top-flight. He is confident that the reports centred on interest in Rhodes will not affect his players at a crucial stage of the campaign.

He said: “When we lost against Leeds we were talking about the keepers. I have had my players for eight months and they are the best, so I don’t need to think about other things. All of my players know what we need to do and the main thing is for Saturday.

“I said a week ago that I think all of my strikers are the best in the league. My squad is the best in the league because they are my players. I don’t want people from outside speaking about one thing that we don’t speak about in here.

“We have a goalscoring problem because we have chances and are not scoring. But we are top of the table with three other teams who have players scoring 40 or 45 goals between them. If we had players who started to do that now then we will be in a much stronger position.

“I am sure that my players can score the goals. If I had not thought that they could score goals I would have looked for strikers one or two months ago in January. I was not looking for another striker, I trust all of them in the same way I did when I first started the season with them.

“My strikers are in a good place when they are scoring goals. When they are not scoring they are affected. But I am very confident in them. All of them have a part to play for me in the next ten games. They are all very good players.”

While a couple of defensive errors proved costly at Nottingham Forest last weekend, Boro still had 26 shots on goal, but only four of those were on target. Kike, the £2.7m signing from Real Murcia, has struggled to show the sort of form he did earlier in the campaign.

Kike has hit eight goals in the league, while Vossen and Lee Tomlin have both hit six. Bamford, despite often playing out wide, has 11 and Karanka could do with a boost to those numbers if Boro are to seal a Premier League spot before May.

Despite hoping that one of those will take their tally to new highs in the next two months, Karanka is keeping his options open before the closure of the Football League loan window on March 26.

“The market is open so we are always looking,” he said. “No manager can say they are not open to new players or allowing players to leave. If the market is open then you have to be open to ideas.”

Boro have been boosted by Daniel Ayala’s return to full training this week and he will be monitored today in the hope he can return against Ipswich.

Right-back Ryan Fredericks is missing with a hamstring problem, while winger Mustapha Carayol will not be considered for a place on the bench.