AITOR KARANKA is banking on new assistant head-coach Craig Hignett helping to sharpen up Middlesbrough’s blunt attack.
Boro are in the midst of a crippling goal drought, which is in danger of becoming not just the talk of Teesside, but the talk of football, with Karanka’s side without a goal in almost 12 hours – nearly eight matches.
Boro, who have failed to find the net since January 18, welcome Ipswich Town this afternoon, with the significant piece of team news likely to see Dimi Konstantopoulos start in goal, with last season’s No 1 Jason Steele again on the fringes.
The Greek-born custodian is set to step in for the injured Tomas Mejias, set to be out for a month after damaging a finger in training. Up front, it remains to be seen if Karanka stays with his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation which has failed to yield so much as a goal in the past month-and-a-half or elect to offer support to January signing Danny Graham.
Karanka is keeping his tactical options close to his chest, although one message he is happy to convey is that he hopes Hignett – scorer of Boro’s first-ever goal at the Riverside back in 1995 and a regular marksmen during his time at the club – can tap into the mindset of his forwards in a bid to relight their fires.
On the arrival of ex-Hartlepool United No 2 Hignett – with Jamie Clapham reverting to his former role with the Under-21s – Karanka said: “It is good for us, and for our strikers in particular.
“They can take some different points of view from him, and I am sure he will be important for us.”
On electing to go for Hignett as his assistant, Karanka added: “We met with other people to discuss signing with them, but the right person is Higgy.
“When I arrived here, I asked for an assistant, but we didn’t want to make mistakes so we were waiting to take the right person. That is why Higgy is here with us now. He has a lot of strengths. He has a good knowledge of the club, the league and the players.
“He is a veteran ex-player who played a lot of games and scored a lot of goals for Middlesbrough.”
Jonathan Woodgate is sidelined for this afternoon’s encounter with the Tractor Boys.