GORDON STRACHAN is facing an anxious few days before the transfer window slams shut after Adam Johnson again underlined his Premier League potential.
The highly-rated winger scored two and created another as Middlesbrough breathed fresh life into their play-off challenge by inflicting only a second home defeat of the season on Doncaster Rovers.
Johnson, one of the Championship's outstanding performers this season, has been linked with a 6m move to the top flight with Chelsea the latest to show interest. Strachan recently claimed to be hopeful of holding on to his prize asset beyond next Monday when the window closes but it will surely be an even harder task after last night.
The 22-year-old shone on a cold night in south Yorkshire and any watching scouts will surely be urging their managers that the wide man, who will be out of contract in the summer, is worth a punt.
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Johnson opened the scoring on the half-hour with an unstoppable 20-yard effort that flew past Neil Sullivan. Then, as the first half drifted into stoppage time, Johnson's searing pace down the left caught the Rovers' defence unawares.
He pulled the ball back intelligently for Jonathan Franks who was afforded far too much space to shoot beyond Sullivan from eight yards.
It put the visitors firmly in control and they made it 3-0 midway through the second half courtesy of a mix-up between Sullivan and James O'Connor.
Leroy Lita was the beneficiary of the Doncaster pair leaving it to each other to deal with a long ball forward from Danny Coyne, the Boro substitute nipping in to head the ball over the stranded goalkeeper before nodding it into the empty net.
After debutant Jordon Mutch had pulled a goal back for Rovers, Johnson rounded off a fine night for the visitors with a drilled free-kick in the last minute.
In contrast to Strachan's men, Rovers were strangely subdued last night with their trademark passing style lacking its usual crispness. They did create an early chance when Gareth Roberts picked out John Spicer's run only for the midfielder to see his shot beaten away by Danny Coyne.
The Boro goalkeeper then acrobatically kept out a fierce drive from Billy Sharp on 25 minutes after the on-loan Sheffield United striker had cleverly created space for himself.
With the score goalless at the time, it was a crucial stop as just five minutes later Boro went ahead courtesy of Johnson.
Rovers tried to rally early in the second half with James Coppinger cutting in from the right and hitting a shot that took a wicked deflection before landing on top of the net and Lewis Guy brought a fine save from Coyne.
Mutch, who had joined the club from Birmingham City the previous day, did pull a goal back with a stunning 25-yard shot that flew into the net on 83 minutes but it proved to be no more than a consolation as Boro netted a fourth through Johnson to seal what is only their third win under Strachan.
Doncaster Rovers: Sullivan; O'Connor, Chambers, Hird (Webster 79) Roberts; Wilson, Spicer (Mutch 68), Coppinger (McDaid 82), Guy; Heffernan, Sharp. Unused substitutes: Dumbaya, Fisher, Smith, Clark.
Middlesbrough: Coyne; McMahon, Wheater, Grounds, Hoyte (Taylor 89); Franks (Lita 57) , Flood, O'Neil, Arca (Bennett 79), Johnson; Killen. Unused substitutes: Steele, Taylor, Walker, Emnes, Williams.
Referee: S Tanner (Somerset).