Neil Warnock made the decision to hand forward Andraz Sporar his first start for Middlesbrough in their 2-0 win at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday night.
It was a major show of faith in the forward who arrived on the final day of the transfer window on a loan deal from Sporting CP as Boro looked to bolster their firepower.
Sporar was able to inject an extra added attacking threat for Middlesbrough in the final third against Nottingham Forest. He was able to highlight some of the qualities that he is going to bring to the table for Warnock’s side in the Championship.
Boro have struggled to find a reliable regular goal scorer for a while now and with them having allowed Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher to leave in the summer, they needed someone one to come in and try and take on the goals scoring burden.
Uche Ikpeazu had been leading the line for most of Middlesbrough’s opening matches this season. The former Wycombe Wanderers forward has fired home two goals in his first six league appearances for Boro.
However, the forward has never really been prolific throughout his career to date and he only managed to score six league goals in 31 appearances for Wycombe last term.
Middlesbrough, therefore, needed something different in the final third. Sporar was able to provide that for them at Nottingham Forest.
The 27-year-old was able to produce the all-important moment of quality for Middlesbrough inside the 24th minute. That came with him latching on to a pass from Marcus Tavernier and firing home a clinical finish.
It was not the sort of chance that Sporar would have been criticised for missing.
However, the manner in which he struck the ball beyond Ethan Hovarth in Nottingham Forest’s goal showed that he has the potential to score when presented with just half an opportunity on goal.
Sporar’s clinical finish was his only effort on goal. That means that he struck the target with his only real chance and finished up with one goal from an expected goals tally of just 0.11.
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That sort of clinical edge is what Middlesbrough have been missing and it suggests that if they can provide the 27-year-old with regular service, then he will be able to finish off a lot of chances in the final third.
The forward was also able to show that he can be relied upon to hold the ball up and bring his teammates into the game in the attacking third of the field.
Against Nottingham Forest, Sporar managed to win 50% of his aerial duels and also maintained a passing accuracy of 73%.
Whilst there is room for improvements in both of those stats, it was not bad going for someone making his first start in English football and the Championship.
While Sporar was also able to demonstrate that he can switch the play and distribute the ball well from range, with the forward managing to complete both of his attempted long passes during the game.
It was a positive first start for Sporar that saw him find the net whilst also showing signs he can fit in well with Warnock’s style of play.
There will still be plenty more to come from him as he adapts to life in the Championship, and Middlesbrough do need to do more to get the ball into him and offer him more chances.
Warnock though will be pleased with what he saw and the belief will now be that Boro could have found the goalscorer they needed upfront.