CHRIS WILDER admits Middlesbrough’s misfiring forwards have underperformed in the last five matches – but insists there is still time for at least one of them to “be a hero” before the end of the campaign.

Boro head into tonight’s penultimate home game against Cardiff City knowing they need to claim all three points to keep any realistic hope of securing a play-off place alive.

The Teessiders have picked up just two points from the last available 15, a run of form that has left them five points adrift of sixth-placed Sheffield United and two points behind seventh-placed Blackburn Rovers and eighth-placed Millwall, albeit with a game in hand on all three teams.

Riley McGree’s second-half strike against Swansea City at the weekend is the only goal they have scored in their last five outings, with Wilder admitting all five of his strikers have failed to fire, a weakness that has been Boro’s major Achilles heel all season.

Andraz Sporar, Aaron Connolly, Falorin Balogun, Duncan Watmore and Josh Coburn have claimed 24 Championship goals between them this term, 17 fewer than Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored by himself.

“We’ve not done well enough at the top end of the pitch,” admitted Wilder. “There’s no getting away from that because we’ve had enough chances.

“I’m always a bit reluctant to chuck it all on the forwards because we do get into great positions. Look at the weekend – Marcus Tavernier has to score, Anfernee Dijksteel has to score. But ultimately, the pressure and the onus is on the centre-forwards to score, and all of them have had enough chances.

“They’ve all had enough game time and enough chances to come up with the goods, and it seems at times they’re just reluctant to really grab that opportunity and say, ‘It’s me’. That’s the reason why we keep flip-flopping from player to player. If they did grab that opportunity, then maybe they’d find themselves having more game time.”

That said, though, there is still an opportunity for someone to change the course of the season in the next three matches and etch their name into Teesside footballing folklore.

Just as Jordan Rhodes’ otherwise underwhelming Middlesbrough spell was at least partially transformed by the two late goals at Bolton Wanderers that played such a crucial role in the successful promotion campaign under Aitor Karanka, so one of Boro’s current forwards could rewrite their own narrative if they were fire their side into the play-offs in the next ten days.

With a victory surely imperative if the Teessiders are to keep their season alive ahead of Saturday’s home game with Stoke City and the following weekend’s trip to Preston, there is a chance that all five could feature at some stage this evening. If they do, Wilder is hoping at least one seizes the opportunity to be a matchwinner.

“Somebody can be a hero,” he said. “We need big performances from everybody now, but there’s that chance there for somebody to really put themselves forward to be the hero. They all want to play at the top level, we all want to be involved at the top level, well to get to the top level, you have to have personality and character, and come up with the big moments when it really counts and the pressure is on.

The Northern Echo:

“Our boys have to show they can make the difference between now and the end of the season. The teams that produce the big moments will be the ones that flourish, and they’ll be the ones that deserve to be in the play-offs. If we make it, then we deserve to be there. If we don’t, then there’ll be a reason for that.”

Blackburn were in a similar position when they travelled to Preston on Monday, and Tony Mowbray’s players kept their season alive as they scored four goals in the opening 52 minutes in an emphatic 4-1 win. Wilder was impressed by Rovers’ resolve, and wants his own side to display identical focus, commitment and bravery tonight.

“Blackburn have players that can score, but that had not found the net,” he said. “All of a sudden, in one game, they take their chances and their big moments, and the whole feel of the place goes from feeling a little bit flat to getting themselves right back up there.

“We’ve got to get out of this situation. It’s understandable that we’re not really feeling great about ourselves at the moment. But if we’d taken a big moment on Saturday, we’d be feeling a lot better. And if we take our moments on Wednesday night, I’m sure there’ll be a great feeling going into work on Thursday, looking forward to an incredible game on Saturday. But only if we get the job done against Cardiff.”

Boro should be boosted by the return of Dael Fry this evening, with the centre-half having recovered from the calf injury that kept him out of the last three games. Marcus Tavernier has been passed fit after rolling his ankle at the weekend, but Matt Crooks remains unavailable because of suspension.

Middlesbrough (probable, 3-5-2): Daniels; Dijksteel, Fry, McNair; Jones, McGree, Howson, Tavernier, Bola; Watmore, Sporar.