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Boro all set for a striker return
LUKAS Jutkiewicz is set to make his first start of the season tomorrow, with Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray tipping the striker to be a key figure during his second campaign on Teesside .
Jutkiewicz, who has not featured since undergoing knee surgery at the start of the summer, returned to full training at the start of the international break.
The 23-year-old made a £1.6m move from Coventry City in January, but while he made a bright start to his Boro career, his final tally of two Championship goals was somewhat disappointing.
More will be expected this term, and Mowbray is confident Jutkiewicz will enhance his side’s attacking play, starting with tomorrow’s home game with Ipswich Town.
“Lukas will find his niche in our squad and our team,” said the Boro boss, who has also welcomed Kevin Thomson back into full training after an injury lay-off. “He brings a different element to our game.
“He’s done a couple of weeks training now, and he’s anxious to get going. Only the games will give him the fitness and sharpness to get to where he wants to be, but the sooner he gets onto the pitch and gets minutes under his belt, the better.”
In Jutkiewicz’s absence, Mowbray has signed Ishmael Miller, another tall, powerful striker who appears ideally suited to playing alongside Marvin Emnes .
On the face of it, it appears unlikely that Jutkiewicz and Miller will play too many matches together this season, but Mowbray denies it is a simple case of choosing one forward or the other.
“Lukas is different to Ishmael Miller,” he said. “They’re both six foot three, left-footed centre-forwards, but Ishmael is more about speed on the shoulder running in behind, whereas Lukas is more about getting the ball into his body to bring other players into the game.
“I’m hoping the chemistry will be fine between them. At times, they’ll play together, at other times one of them might have to sit on the bench and wait for the other one to come off.”
Miller arrived on a seasonlong loan from Nottingham Forest last month, and Mowbray completed his summer transfer business with the acquisition of Andre Bikey earlier this week.
Bikey was a free agent after leaving Burnley at the end of last season, and came close to joining Boro at the start of the summer after holding talks at Rockliffe Park.
Those discussions ended without a deal, but Mowbray revisited the situation after Rhys Williams was ruled out for up to four months when he damaged his knee ligaments at Gillingham.
Bikey, a 25-time Cameroon international, boasts expensive experience in both the Premier League and Championship, and his new manager is delighted to have him on board.
“He’s a player I’ve liked for a lot of years,” said Mowbray.
“I spoke to him through the summer, he came to the training ground and we had a good chat.
“I liked his personality then, but for various reasons we didn’t get a deal done. We would have signed him in the summer if the talks had gone the way we would have liked, but he’s here now and he’s different to some of the other central defenders we’ve got.
“He’s more bulky, physical and powerful, yet he’s also very comfortable with the ball. I think he can be an acquired taste, and that’s probably why he was still available.
But he’s the type of player we like.”
Having already secured home wins against Burnley and Crystal Palace this season, Boro entertain Ipswich tomorrow hoping to extend their 100 per cent record at the Riverside.
“You really should be picking up the majority of your points at home, and this is a great opportunity for us to get another three points,” said Mowbray. “If we could make it three home wins on the bounce it would be a good start to the season at the Riverside.
“Hopefully, that would create a foundation for us to be confident and positive going into every game.”
Boro defender Ben Gibson has extended his loan spell at Tranmere Rovers by another three months. Gibson, who has started all eight of Tranmere’s matches this season, will remain at Prenton Park until January 3.