Frustrated Tony Mowbray is hoping a swift transfer breakthrough can add fire-power to his shot-shy squad.
The Boro boss says the club are actively pursuing several targets to give the shot-shy club a cutting edge and, after three fruitless weeks, he hopes to now quickly break the log-jam.
The Teessiders want to push ahead with a £1m bid for Bristol City’s Ghana international winger Albert Adomah quickly to add creativity and are courting a striker and a central defender too.
Boro slipped to a disappointing 2-1 defeat in their Riverside Championship curtain-raiser against Leicester despite dominating the first half.
They forced an own goal opener off former Boro loanee Sean St Ledger but then missed golden chances to seal victory and were punished as Leicester hit back after the break with goals from Danny Drinkwater and Jamie Vardy.
Having shipped out last term’s 12-goal top scorer Scott McDonald to Millwall to slash the wage bill, Mowbray knows he must replace him with a striker and inject pace and creativity.
Flying flanker Adomah is the top target. Bristol City, relegated to League One last term and keen to sell their prime asset, have accepted Boro’s bid – but rejected the proposed schedule of staggered payments and want more of the cash up front.
That has left Mowbray anxiously awaiting developments as the moneymen at both clubs haggle.
“It’s been going on a while and we’re all a bit frustrated,” he said.
“There have been lots of conversations and we’d have liked to have had some players in by now. It hasn’t worked out as yet, but it is not for want of trying.
“We have offers on the table as we speak. The clubs concerned haven’t turned them down. They are making decisions, talking at boardroom level and we will have to wait and see if they come to fruition for us. We are confident they will.
“It is difficult for the players at times. Leicester brought David Nugent on and he had a real impact on the game.
“But it’s difficult for our group when you turn around and you don’t see that out and out centre-forward for instance tearing his shirt off waiting to go on and make the difference.
“That’s football. We’re working hard and trying to improve the squad. I’m sure we will before the end of the month.”
Boro looked like they need rein-forcements, losing their way against Nigel Pearson’s well drilled side.
Boro bossed the first half and Lukas Jutkiewicz curled wide from 18 yards, then Jonathan Woodgate headed over twice before they forced the opener on 35 minutes.
Mustapha Carayol curled a cross to the near post and Boro old boy St Ledger put a glancing header into his own net. They should have sealed it in stoppage time as Emnes danced into the box and drew the keeper, but with the goal gaping he checked inside and lost control – team-mate Grant Leadbitter arrived but Schmeichel had got back on to his line to block.
After the break it was a different story as Leicester went on to the offensive, leaving Boro reeling.
Leicester levelled on the hour as Drinkwater slammed home a sizzling 20-yard drive through a crowded box, and it was two on 67 minutes as Nugent sent Vardy racing clear to lash home.
Nugent and Vardy could have added more goals late on but for good saves from exposed keeper Jason Steele.
“We are very disappointed,” said Mowbray. “We started well and got our noses in front, but in the second half we didn’t perform and they stepped up a bit. Their first goal knocked the stuffing out of us a bit and we lost a bit of our fluency.
“Marvin had a great chance to seal it in the first half, and if you get two nil up it’s a long long way back for them. But the bottom line is we didn’t take the chance – it came and went. It’s about fine margins. We talked a lot about that last year and it remains true. There are a lot of tight games in this league – the key is coming out on top in them.
“It was disappointing, of course, but there’s a long way to go. Let’s keep working, keep doing the right things and we’ll win a lot of football matches this season. We have Accrington at home in the League Cup tomorrow and it is important we bounce back and win that.”
MIDDLESBROUGH: Steele, Parnaby (Luke Williams 82), Friend, Whitehead, Rhys Williams, Woodgate, Carayol (Haroun 61), Leadbitter, Jutkiewicz, Emnes, Varga. Subs Not Used: Hoyte, Ledesma, Gibson, Leutwiler, Smallwood.
Goals: Jutkiewicz 35.
LEICESTER: Schmeichel, De Laet, Konchesky, St Ledger, Morgan, Whitbread (Moore 19), James, Drinkwater, Vardy, Wood (Nugent 62), King. Subs Not Used: Marshall, Dyer, Waghorn, Schlupp, Logan.
Goals: Drinkwater 60, Vardy 67.
Att: 17,223. Ref: Andrew Madley (West Yorkshire).