8:00am Monday 2nd September 2013
By Paul Fraser
Full-time: Middlesbrough 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1
TWO years ago today Lukas Jutkiewicz had a transfer deadline day to forget. This time around he is settled, growing in confidence and a crucial component of Tony Mowbray's grand plan.
Mowbray's focus until 11pm tonight will be on how to strengthen his squad and his forward line, but the role Jutkiewicz has to play in Middlesbrough's revival could be vital.
After five matches Mowbray's men are as close to the Championship's bottom three as they are to the top six, but the signs of progress are there.
Following the earlier arrival of Albert Adomah this summer, there is suddenly greater vibrancy and verve in the way Middlesbrough attack.
But with Adomah down the right and Mustapha Carayol down the left, such a system would be useless without a centre-forward capable of holding things up and bringing others in to play. Jutkiewicz is that man.
He performed his duties to the letter for Mowbray against Sheffield Wednesday. He had started well enough, but then the Owls rocked the Riverside by claiming the lead ten minutes before half-time through Michail Antonio.
But after the restart Middlesbrough dominated until the closing stages, with Jutkiewicz's power and strength proving a real nuisance to the visitors' defence – even if he was left needing stitches to a head wound as a result of the attention he received throughout.
“I'm tired, bruised and battered,” said the 24-year-old, standing in the tunnel with a bandage wrapped around his head. “But that's the nature of the game. I enjoyed it.”
Jutkiewicz looks like he is enjoying the responsibility on his shoulders. The first 18 months of his time at Middlesbrough have been a mixture of frustration and promise.
He has scored goals and shown on occasions why Mowbray was willing to invest £1.3m in him from Coventry in January 2012. Injuries, however, have hampered him during his time at the Riverside.
After displaying all of his strengths to trouble Wednesday, he is hoping this season will be his time to shine, knowing just how highly Mowbray believes he can lead the line for years to come.
“I try to repay the faith the manager has shown in me,” said Jutkiewicz, who Mowbray thinks should be targeting 15-20 goals a season.
“I expect goals from myself. You have centre-forwards who are not expected to score goals, I want to be labelled as someone who will score goals.
“You are judged as a striker on scoring goals. I accept that. I want to score every game. I could have had one here and it is a bit frustrating that I didn't score.
“I've got confidence this season from feeling wanted. I am keen to do well, show people I'm not an injury prone player. Last season and before that I don't think I had ever had a serious injury. I want to show people I will be around for 40-plus games a season. That's the way it has started.”
After shrugging off the attention of defender Kamil Zayatte three minutes after half-time, Jutkiewicz darted down the left and delivered a perfect low cross for Carayol to turn in the equaliser.
Ten minutes later he almost had one of his own. Grant Leadbitter, showing again why Nottingham Forest want him to drive their midfield, rolled him in and Jutkiewicz crashed a thunderous drive off the bar from 18 yards.
Wednesday’s Jermaine Johnson is tackled by Boro’s Rhys Williams during the Championship match at the Riverside Stadium
After that there were more chances for Middlesbrough to go on and win it. George Friend, displaying the attacking intention he showed in the first half of last season, could have scored two, while Leadbitter, Adomah and Andy Halliday all went close.
The number of chances Middlesbrough missed highlighted why Mowbray wants extra firepower before tonight's deadline – even if it was to play in the hole behind Jutkiewicz rather than replace him.
The former Coventry City man is just relieved he can concentrate on his Middlesbrough career today rather than have to worry about travelling up and down the country to seal a move.
Jutkiewicz, smiling, said: “I'm not expecting anything this time! It is nice to know I'm in a settled position, a bit like the spectators, I can enjoy the window and see who comes in.
“I have had lots of transfer days. I remember this summer one two years ago, I was sat up here in Middlesbrough waiting and it fell through at the last minute. That was quite a stressful day. I don't anticipate that same stress this time. I just hope we can get a few other faces in.”
Whoever Mowbray brings in, any new players will join a team that has gone four matches unbeaten for the first time since going top of the Championship in November last year.
Middlesbrough may not be as potent as they would like, but there is certainly more fluency about their football in the final third.
Jutkiewicz said: “We have been working as a front three to try to hurt teams more and we were effective. I don't think we are too far away now. I hope the people recognise what we are trying to do and that the team is taking shape. I don't think we are that far away.”
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