TONY PULIS is desperate for reinforcements at Middlesbrough in January and his attempts to strengthen should be boosted by the departures of Rudy Gestede and Martin Braithwaite.

The Boro boss has made no secret of his wish to bring in fresh faces when the window opens on January 1, even more so after the recent slump in form which has left them winless in five games.

Tuesday’s disappointing Carabao Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of League One side Burton Albion has increased frustrations among the supporters.

Pulis, who accepts that criticism of him is growing, wants to bring in attackers with more pace and has wingers in mind and he also wants another forward.

But he does not want a squad carrying too many players and has outlined previously that who he brings in could well depend on who departs.

Middlesbrough are actively looking to move certain players on, which has led to the uncertainty in the dressing room with the Christmas period on the horizon.

And three of the likeliest players to leave are Braithwaite, Gestede and Britt Assombalonga if the right deals can be struck – and all have interest in them.

Swansea manager Graham Potter is keen to take Braithwaite to South Wales as he looks to guide the ninth-placed Swans up into the play-off zone.

The Denmark international is someone Potter knows all about from his time managing in Scandinavia.

Boro are looking to recoup the £9m they paid Toulouse for him in the summer of 2017. Last January he went on loan to Bordeaux.

Ipswich are keen on Gestede. The 30-year-old has found it hard to get back into Boro’s team since recovering from injury, even though he was used regularly in Pulis’ early days at the Riverside when he took over 12 months ago.

Tractor Boys boss Paul Lambert is trying to land the players who can lift Ipswich up off the foot of the Championship and a loan deal would be more likely for the Benin international who moved to Teesside for a £6m fee in January 2017.

Assombalonga is rated in the £15m bracket and Crystal Palace have discussed the possibility of swapping Connor Wickham for him in the new year, although no deal is thought to have been struck at this stage.

But Pulis can’t afford to be left short by letting players go if he doesn’t have replacements lined up.

Wickham is clearly a player who has been discussed, while the Middlesbrough boss has had meetings in London with contacts to discuss possible targets.

He remains interested in Crystal Palace’s Jason Puncheon, who he worked with at Selhurst Park and tried to sign in the summer. The 32-year-old has barely figured for the Eagles this season.

Boro have slipped down to sixth in the table after their recent slump and head to managerless Reading on Saturday, facing opposition who need the points to boost their fight against relegation.

Reading’s stand-in boss Scott Marshall insists the players will be focused on facing Boro while the search for a new boss goes on.

It is almost two weeks since Paul Clement left the Madejski Stadium.

Vitoria de Guimaraes’ Luis Castro turned down Reading last week and Rio Ave boss Jose Gomes is also likely to remain in Portugal after being targeted by the Berkshire club.

Marshall said: “I’m sure Reading fans will want the right decision made over a period of time and if that takes a bit longer then it should do.

“I keep planning for the games. I will just keep focusing on the football and moving forward with that and doing what’s needed for each game.”