MIDDLESBROUGH will not be allowing Britt Assombalonga to go on the cheap this month as interest grows in the £15m-rated striker.

Assombalonga is currently battling his way back to full fitness after a couple of recent set-backs with his ankle problem, but that has not stopped him being considered by other clubs.

Middlesbrough – who are on the look-out for new signings and are understood to be one of the clubs which has had a loan offer rejected for Burnley’s Ben Gibson - expect to have the 27-year-old available for action when Blackburn head to the Riverside on February 1, when the window has closed.

Aston Villa are known to have him on their list of targets, while Championship title-chasing Leeds United still have him high in their sights after struggling to persuade Southampton and Watford to part with Che Adams and Andre Gray respectively.

Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate is just focused on having Assombalonga fit again to compete with Ashley Fletcher and Rudy Gestede for a striker role in his side. The former Nottingham Forest man hasn’t played since sustaining his ankle injury against Charlton on December 7.

Fletcher scored again on Tuesday night when he equalised late on against Birmingham City, in a tempestuous affair which the FA are looking into because of a 15-man fracas towards the end between the two benches.

That night saw Lukas Nmecha play his first 90 minutes in a Middlesbrough shirt following his loan move from Manchester City and he would have liked it to have ended with three points rather than one.

He said: “You’ve got to keep battling. It’s not easy to get points in this league. The games are unpredictable and we just had to fight it out. We weren’t going to let them come here and bully us or anything like that. We stood our ground and we thought we were going to win at the end.

“When you lose two players and miss a penalty like we did, it’s difficult. We had other chances as well where maybe the final pass just wasn’t quite perfect. It was definitely frustrating at times but I thought we worked hard.

“The group has got really good character. All of our players are good quality, but at the end of the day it’s not about that, it’s about digging in when you need to and all the team are prepared to do that.

“This is what it’s like in the Championship. Everyone gives it their all, Birmingham gave it their all, but that’s just football isn’t it, you’ve got to work hard. We know the players have the quality, so I’d back this team to get a result against anybody.

“It’s part of the game. People lose their heads sometimes, but they would have shaken hands at the end of the day and that’s that.”

Nmecha arrived with Patrick Roberts from City on loan until the end of the season and he has been impressed by the talent within the young squad at Middlesbrough.

Roberts and Dael Fry – who is interesting Burnley but a huge price-tag has been placed on him – both picked up injuries on Tuesday but it is hoped this free weekend will give them the extra recovery time so they can face Blackburn.

Nmecha said: “We’re a very young squad. I knew three or four of the lads before I came and it’s just a positive vibe. I haven’t played much so just coming into this team has been great for me.

“I knew Marcus Tavernier, Dael Fry, Hayden Coulson and Aynsley Pears from the England days, and then Pat Roberts obviously. We’re all coming through together.

“I’ve never had that before, so many young players in the same team, but it’s good that the young players are coming through and we’ve shown that we can play football. We’re playing some good football together.

“I’m loving it here to be honest. That was my first 90 minutes of the whole season. I’m still getting back into it really, and still feel as though I can get a bit sharper here and there. I’m starting to feel fitter every game.

“It was frustrating not getting the game time I wanted. Training is training, but you just need that match feeling. I’ve had a few run-outs now, and hopefully I can push on with each game and get a few goals and assists now.”

Middlesbrough are one of a number of Chamionnship clubs being credited with an interest in Bournemouth defender Jack Simpson.