TONY PULIS has stressed to out-of-favour Middlesbrough striker Britt Assombalonga that he still has a massive part to play this season.
Boro’s £15m marquee summer recruit has endured a barren second-half of the campaign, in stark contrast to his form up to Boxing Day which saw him fire 12 goals for the Teessiders to repay some instalments of the hefty transfer fee which brought him to the club from Nottingham Forest.
But the goals have dried up under Pulis, with Assombalonga cooling his heels on the bench since early February.
The forward’s decision to assume penalty duties ahead of regular taker and captain Grant Leadbitter after coming on as a substitute in the 2-1 win over Reading on February 10 hardly helped his cause with the Boro manager – he promptly missed the late spot-kick in wretched fashion.
Yet Pulis insists that Assombalonga can turn his season around and has cited the recent renaissance of Patrick Bamford as proof of that.
Pulis said: “Britt is still there and I had a chat with him this week.
“Britt has got a massive part to play from now until the end of the season. He has got to be focused and ready if the call comes to him.
“He can add to what we are trying to do.”
Sixth-placed Boro head into today’s game at Griffin Park seeking a fourth successive league win for the first time since April, 2016, but Pulis is not getting carried away and believes that the top-six race is likely to go down to the wire.
It is a wise stance to take, with Boro facing key games against rivals Sheffield United, Derby and Bristol City before the season’s end. They are also handed a tricky assignment against a Bees side who also retain play-off hopes and who were unfortunate not to take maximum points in the reverse fixture at the Riverside Stadium.
Pulis, who has an injury doubt regarding key defender Daniel Ayala, who has not trained this week due to a groin niggle, said: “Everybody around that (play-off) area will understand and recognise that it could be right to the end. Nobody can afford to be complacent.”
Last six games: Brentford WWLWLL; Middlesbrough LWDWWW.
Referee: S Hooper (Wiltshire).
Last time: Brentford 0 Middlesbrough 1, January 12, 2016; Championship.