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Mowbray keen to restore Boro to winning ways
A RUN of two defeats hardly constitutes a crisis, but Tony Mowbray is determined to return Middlesbrough to winning ways before this month's momentum dissipates completely.
When the Teessiders briefly moved to the top of the Championship after a 3-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday earlier this month, they were able to celebrate an eight-game unbeaten run.
Since then, they have lost 1-0 at promotion rivals Cardiff and slipped to a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Bristol City, results that have seen them slip to fourth position and tempered some of the optimism that swept across Teesside a fortnight ago.
Tonight, they entertain Huddersfield Town hoping to turn things around, with Mowbray admitting that losing can quickly become as much of a habit as winning in a league as tight and competitive as the Championship.
"We need to get back to winning ways as quickly as we can," said the Middlesbrough manager. "If you're on a winning streak, you feel as though you can pick any 11 players and send them out to win the game.
"But when things aren't quite going as well, you're much more focused on picking a specific side to play against a specific team and you're concentrating on what their strengths and weaknesses are. Sometimes, you make those decisions for the right reasons, as was the case at the weekend, but it doesn't pan out for you.
"We'll try and pick a team for this game to get us back to winning ways. We've just come off a decent winning run and the momentum that's behind you helps no matter what you have to do with the team.
"We made five changes for the Sheffield Wednesday game, yet still won. That's what happens when you're winning and we need to get back to that kind of momentum as quickly as possible."
Boro's preparations for this evening's game have been hampered by the torrential rainfall that drenched the North-East yesterday.
Mowbray's players were unable to train outside because the pitches at the club's Rockliffe Park training ground, which stands on the banks of the River Tees, were flooded.
The rapid turnaround from Saturday's game hardly helps, and when he selects his side for tonight's match, Mowbray will also have to be mindful that Friday's trip to Birmingham will make it three games in just six days.
"We haven't been outside, but we have a few players who can't really train in the gym because of past injuries or knocks," he said. "We haven't had a full squad training because of the water that's out there."That creates issues in terms of working on the shape of the team and the organisation that we're looking for. We probably won't name the team until just before kick-off because of that.
"It's not ideal, but you get used to it when you're playing in this league. The time for working on things can be limited."
Having admitted his team selection for Saturday's defeat did not work out as planned, Mowbray is expected to make changes this evening.
Scott McDonald could return to the starting line-up, while Nicky Bailey is expected to replace the suspended Grant Leadbitter at the heart of midfield.
George Friend's injury has deprived Mowbray of some natural width on the left-hand side, so Luke Williams is in contention for only his third start of the campaign.
The back four is likely to remain unchanged though, with Jonathan Woodgate still unavailable.
"Jonathan's not far away, but I don't think he's got a chance for this one," said Mowbray. "As I've said all along, when Woodgate plays, and with total respect to the other defenders, I think the team looks more solid. Every game he plays is a big plus for us, but I don't think he's going to be right for this one."
The same is true of Rhys Williams, although the Australian has at least returned to light training as he continues to recover from an ankle ligament injury.
Williams is back working in the gym and is hoping to be available for a first-team return before the turn of the year.
"Rhys is back into a programme and doing light jogging," said Mowbray. "He'll hope to have his boots on in another couple of weeks and be back in and around and training. He won't do contact training for a week or so, but then we'll build it up to full contact and try to get him a game. In three or four weeks, hopefully he'll be looking for selection."