MIDDLESBROUGH’S stand-out performer? Two words; Marvin Emnes.
The Dutch striker has notched nine goals in 17 appearances in the 2011/12 campaign and possesses the pace and skill to trouble Doncaster Rovers backline tonight. Six of his strikes came in the opening four matches, including an impressive hat-trick in the Carling Cup triumph at Walsall.
It is a remarkable turnaround for Emnes, whose days appeared numbered at the Riverside when he was deemed surplus to requirements by Gordon Strachan a year ago. He seemed destined for the exit door, only to be given a chance to resurrect his faltering career by Tony Mowbray following Strachan’s departure.
The change in manager has brought a change in fortunes for the 23-year-old, signed from Sparta Rotterdam in a £3.2m move in 2008, and the nippy player has established himself as an indispensable member of Mowbray’s attack.
“Tony gives you the freedom to express yourself and I think that is important for a player,” he said.
“The start I’ve made to the season has not been a surprise to me. I had this feeling for a long while that I felt it was my time now. I’m scoring goals and that’s a good thing for me.
The problem facing Boro as they bid to mount a concerted promotion challenge is Mowbray’s men rely heavily on Emnes for the goals. Indeed, they have drawn a blank in five out of the last seven matches and have consequently slipped to fourth in the table.
Boro were outplayed and brushed aside comfortably 3-0 by Championship pace-setters Southampton on Saturday, becoming the seventh side in a row to lose at St Mary’s.
Centre-back Matthew Bates described the crushing loss as a “shock to the system” and is calling on the team to return to winning ways in South Yorkshire.
“We’re in a little bit of a sticky patch, so we need to stick together and make sure we turn the losses into draws and the draws into wins,” he said. “We go to Doncaster and, with the greatest of respect, it’s a game we feel that if we get back to our old ways and play well, we should win.
“Then we have another home game after that (against Watford). Let’s not get too down. If we get six points out of the next two matches, we’ll still be in a good position going into the break.”