NEIL WARNOCK spent most of the summer scouring the transfer market trying to identify strikers capable of solving Middlesbrough’s goalscoring issues. Perhaps, in the fullness of time, it will become evident that the answer to the problem was at his fingertips all along.

Josh Coburn has endured a difficult few months since exploding onto the first-team scene at the end of last season. Not only has the Richmond-based 18-year-old had to deal with the physical challenges of filling into his six foot three inch frame, he has also had to contend with a nasty bout of Covid that wrecked his pre-season.

Prior to Saturday, his only league involvement this season had come via a ten-minute run-out in August’s goalless draw with Derby, but when Warnock was searching for a breakthrough in the final stages of his side’s game with Peterborough, he turned to the teenager as a replacement for summer signing Andraz Sporar.

Two minutes after Coburn left the bench, he watched Paddy McNair break the deadlock from the penalty spot. Six minutes after that, with the clock having ticked into stoppage time, the youngster secured the points with his second senior goal, playing a slick one-two with Martin Payero before sliding a composed finish into the bottom corner.

Middlesbrough’s academy has a proud track record of nurturing talented players, but in the last couple of decades, the club has never really managed to produce a homegrown centre-forward. Perhaps Coburn will be the player that changes that.

“I think he’ll go on to make a good living out of the game,” said Warnock. “I’m not sure of the level he’ll get to yet, but he’ll make a good living out of the game because of his attitude.

“When I look at the other clubs and the strikers they’ve got, there aren’t really that many when you look around. Put it this way, he won’t be going on loan anywhere. He’ll be staying here, young Josh. He’ll be around the first-team squad, and when there are so many games, he might get some opportunities.”

While Warnock will be working with the rest of his coaching staff to try to hone Coburn’s skills, he has already been impressed by the 18-year-old’s natural instincts in and around the 18-yard box. Despite his inexperience, Coburn has already developed a happy knack of getting himself into the right place at the right time.

“He’s the best runner for crosses in the club, in terms of getting on to the end of them,” said Warnock. “He checks and goes, and when you look at the top players, they always know where to check and where to go to get round the back or in at the near post. He’s always on the move in the box, and is the best by a mile at the club.

“When we play in training, some of the lads try to rough him up but it doesn’t bother him one bit. He’ll take it and give it back.”

Coburn’s goalscoring talents helped settle a game that Boro just about shaded, albeit without ever building the kind of sustained pressure that would have made life easier against a Peterborough side who have lost all of their Championship away games this season.

Things might have been different had referee John Busby awarded the visitors what looked like a deserved penalty at the start of the second half, with Boro goalkeeper Joe Lumley upending Siriki Dembele as the forward broke into the box.

Busby did point to the spot at the other end with five minutes left, with Nathan Thompson wrestling McNair to the floor from a corner.

McNair drilled home the spot-kick, with Coburn completing the scoring a few minutes later.