TONY MOWBRAY thinks converted full-back Andy Halliday has the mindset to carve a career for himself as a defender in a Middlesbrough shirt.
In the absence of George Friend, who could return to the fold against Peterborough this Saturday, Mowbray has had to consider his options in the last few weeks at left-back.
And as well as asking either Stuart Parnaby or Justin Hoyte to switch flanks, the Boro boss now knows he can rely on Halliday to play that role after a couple of impressive outings.
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The 21-year-old, signed as a free-scoring teenager by Gordon Strachan in the summer of 2010, has played left-back in each of Middlesbrough's last two Championship matches with Huddersfield and Birmingham City.
Halliday has been working on the defensive side of his game since the summer, when he was often used on the left side of the defence.
And when Joe Bennett was sold to Aston Villa, the former Livingston forward suddenly found himself as a serious contender to compete with Friend for the left-back berth.
Mowbray has been impressed. He said: "I wasn't sure if Andy was going anywhere as a high rise player, an attacking player. Yet every day in training I would see him make challenges, being very disciplined about stopping the opposition.
"I felt he could play left-back for us. He is decent with the ball and I have no fears about playing him there, he has looked good.
"I have had to wait to give him a chance there, but I think it has worked reasonably well for us. As well as showing an awareness defensively he does join in with the attacks which is good."
With Friend approaching a return to first team action after hamstring trouble, Halliday could be the man to miss out when one of Middlesbrough's most consistent performers of the season so far makes his comeback.
Friend has missed the last three matches since hobbling out of the defeat at Cardiff on November 17, including Friday night's 3-2 defeat at Birmingham.
The results which followed over the weekend left Middlesbrough looking at a five point gap to the Championship's top two. Mowbray, knowing there are still 26 league games remaining, just wants every member of his squad to stay confident.
"We have some tough games in this division," he said. "Tough matches where you can get beat off anybody. Let's try to keep the squad together, there's a good feeling around the squad.
"And we just have to keep the whole squad believing that they can all be a part of it. Every player needs to know that somewhere down the line I can trust him. If we can do that we will do OK."
After this weekend's trip to bottom club Peterborough, Middlesbrough can concentrate on next Wednesday's Capital One Cup quarter-final with Swansea City.
It will be the 12th consecutive occasion Boro have been forced to play away in the League Cup, with supporters clocking up around 3,500 miles during that run of games since the first of those in 2008.
And to mark the occasion - a record by any team in the competition - Middlesbrough supporters have the chance of free travel to the Liberty Stadium.
Cup sponsors Capital One are funding the official club coaches for the 640-mile round trip from the Riverside. Boro defender Jonathan Woodgate said: "This is a great gesture and I'm sure our fans will be very grateful. Being drawn away 12 times in a row has been hard for our fans but they've never wavered in their support for the team."
For fans to claim their free seat, they are advised to contact the Middlesbrough ticket office on 0844 4991234. The offer is subject to availability with 196 places available across four official coaches.
Boro are offering half-season cards. For a 12-game card it will be £235 for adults and £63 for Under-18s for the 18s.
An 11-game card starts at £215 for adults and £57 for Under-18s, while a ten-game card starts at £196 and £52.
Fans who take advantage of the offer will be classed as full-time season card holders so gain the same benefits, including priority tickets for away dates.