Burton Albion move on the cards for in-form striker Liam Boyce
Northern Ireland striker Liam Boyce is moving closer to a £500,000 transfer to English Championship side Burton Albion.
The Ross County ace is a target for several clubs but Burton are determined to land the Scottish Premiership's top goalscorer and are prepared to trigger his £500k release clause at the Highlands outfit.
Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen are all interested in Boyce, but Burton have moved into pole position in the race to sign the 26-year-old former Cliftonville hero.
Burton finished just above the relegation zone in the Championship last season and boss Nigel Clough is intent on improving on that and sees Boyce as a man who can create and score goals for his team.
Albion's first bid for Boyce was turned down by Ross County, but they have not been deterred and will up the ante to land a player who has improved year on year since leaving Irish League football behind in 2014 to enter the professional ranks.
In the season just finished he netted 23 league goals - that was a stunning return in a side that finished seventh in the table.
Boyce's total made him the Scottish Premiership's top marksman ahead of Celtic sensations Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele, who played such important roles in the Hoops winning the treble and going unbeaten domestically throughout the campaign.
Boyce continued his outstanding form when netting his first goal for Northern Ireland earlier this month in a 1-0 friendly victory over New Zealand at Windsor Park and started up front at the weekend when Michael O'Neill's side earned a vital win in the World Cup qualifiers against Azerbaijan in Baku.
Hearts boss Ian Cathro would love Boyce at Tynecastle, while Hibs manager Neil Lennon is also a big admirer, but Burton are leading the chase at present.
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has wanted Boyce for some time, but he looks to be leaving Pittodrie to become Sunderland's new boss.
Boyce still has 12 months left on his current contract at Ross County and, while the Dingwall outfit would like to hang on to their star player, they are well aware of the terms of his deal and the release clause in it.
• Northern Ireland Women's Under-19s began their preparations for August's European Championships with a 3-1 friendly loss to Slovakia in Ballymoney last night.
Meanwhile, former Ballymena United defender Michael Smyth is set to leave Peterborough United and join Coventry City.