NEIL WARNOCK has agreed the terms of a loan deal for his “number one” transfer target – but the Middlesbrough manager admits the signing might remain in the balance until the final few hours of this month’s transfer window.

While Warnock accepts he will not be signing a new centre-forward this month, and has drawn a line under his protracted pursuit of Everton winger Yannick Bolasie, he remains determined to recruit at least one attacking wide player to supplement his squad.

A deal is in place for a Premier League winger, with the player in question also understood to have played as a central striker in the past, but Warnock has been told he might have to wait until the transfer deadline on February 1 to be able to sign off the transfer.

He is also pondering a move for one of two “wildcard” options that have been put to him in the last few days, with the Boro hierarchy having confirmed their willingness to fund a couple of acquisitions.

“I will bring someone in before the deadline in the wide positions,” said Warnock, ahead of tonight’s game at Nottingham Forest. “I’m still optimistic about my number one target, but that looks like going down to the wire. We’ve agreed everything with the player and the club, it’s just a matter of the manager agreeing to letting the player go. You can’t really do anything until that happens, and you can’t really blame managers for looking after their own club.

“I’m still optimistic that one will happen as long as the club involved doesn’t get any more injuries. Beyond that, I might well have a gamble on another one. There’s a couple of players that I think, ‘Well, I might have a gamble on somebody like that’, just to help us to the end of the season.”

Warnock expects to be loaning out a couple more of his fringe players before the end of the month, with the imminent return of Grant Hall likely to pave the way for Nathan Wood’s temporary departure, but as things stand, he does not expect to be losing Patrick Roberts.

The Manchester City loanee has made just three league starts since returning to the Riverside in the summer, but his parent club do not want him back at the Etihad this month and his agent has been unable to secure him an alternative loan deal for the remainder of the season.

“I’m not sure that Manchester City want him back at the moment,” confirmed Warnock. “Patrick’s with us, and I’ve told him that he’s got to knuckle down. Even if he’s not in my thoughts right at this moment, things change.

“He’s got to keep showing me what he can do in training. I don’t think his agent has got him any options, so I don’t think there’s a lot on the table. Patrick’s just got to knuckle down and try to get in my thoughts.”

Roberts will be back on the substitutes’ bench this evening as Boro look to return to winning ways against a Forest side that are unbeaten in their last seven matches in all competitions.

The Teessiders have fallen four points adrift of the play-off positions in the wake of Saturday’s home defeat to Birmingham, and Warnock admits they need to embark on a sustained unbeaten run if they are not to start becoming detached from the promotion-hunting pack.

“They’ve (Forest) gone seven games unbeaten, and that helps your confidence," he said. "Instead of winning one and losing one, I’d like us to put a run together. I think we’re more than capable of doing that.”

Middlesbrough (4-3-3): Bettinelli; Dijksteel, Fry, McNair, Bola; Saville, Howson, Morsy; Watmore, Assombalonga, Johnson.