The Chalkboard: Pulis must play Hugill and Assombalonga when Boro face Blackburn

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Middlesbrough’s Championship promotion hopes suffered a huge dent as they were beaten 1-0 by Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Wednesday night, and manager Tony Pulis needs to make a significant change when they face Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Sunday.

On the chalkboard

Well, the experienced 61-year-old Boro boss has largely opted for a formation incorporating just the one striker this season, with Jordan Hugill more often than not the man to get the nod in the starting XI.

While it is a tactic that has clearly worked given the Teesside outfit currently lie in sixth position in the standings, the 26-year-old West Ham United loanee was horribly isolated during the most recent reverse against the Blades, who certainly weren’t at their best and looked to be there for the taking.

The visitors failed to take advantage and the few opportunities that did fall Hugill’s way he couldn’t take, which meant that Middlesbrough are clinging on to a play-off spot on goal difference heading into the weekend’s fixtures.

What change should Pulis make?

Despite scoring 54 goals in 140 matches at this level and 11 in 31 appearances in all competitions this term, Britt Assombalonga has largely had to settle for a spot on the substitutes’ bench this term.

That is where he has been for the club’s previous seven Championship fixtures, and he couldn’t make an impact in his 23 minutes on the pitch in Yorkshire midweek.

However, the 26-year-old is a natural-born goalscorer and showed how effective he can be with a brace that helped his side beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2 at The Hawthorns earlier this month, and he needs to start alongside Hugill on Sunday.

Considering Middlesbrough will be without the suspended Daniel Ayala and the injured Aden Flint against Rovers they may well be more likely to concede, and therefore they need something more at the other end of the pitch rather than an isolated lone striker again to ensure they don’t draw another blank.