TONY MOWBRAY hopes Middlesbrough’s treatment room will ease ahead of a return to Championship action after his depleted squad successfully negotiated a potentially embarrassing FA Cup third round tie.
Mowbray had 12 members of his first team squad sidelined for the visit of Hastings United but still led his team to a comfortable 4-1 win over the Ryman Premier League club.
There are a number of players unlikely to be fit in time to face Watford at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday, but Mowbray reckons he could have a number of key players back in time.
“Potentially five or six could be back,” said Mowbray. “I’ve been speaking to the doctors and all these injuries are really fatigue rather than explosive hamstrings, six-week jobs.
There’s none of that.
“Faris Haroun made it back against Hastings, Scott Mc- Donald isn’t too bad and made the bench. Then there’s George Friend, Seb Hines, Justin Hoyte, who all have a chance.”
Jonathan Woodgate is not definitely out of the visit of the Hornets either. He will be given the time he feels he needs to recover.
But what Middlesbrough have shown this season is that they have a squad capable of coping. Mowbray has been willing to turn to younger players during the team’s Championship season.
As well as calling on Luke Williams and Adam Reach again when Hastings travelled to the North-East there were also a couple of promising teenagers given a chance against non-league opposition.
Hartlepool-born Bryn Morris, 16, became the third youngest to have played for Middlesbrough and he followed Redcar’s Jordan Jones, 17, on to the field.
Mowbray said: “Bryn’s a young boy. He’s been the captain of England Under-16s, he’s the next local lad coming through, the next Boro academy player with real potential.
“He’s a footballer I like, he does things economically, his control, his passing, is tight.
He’s very athletic and knows where he’s going. He can get up and down the pitch all day long, yet he’s only just left school.
“Jordan is from Redcar where I’m from, watching him in the Under-21s and Under-19s this year, he’s a special talent regarding running with the ball, drifting past players, with a change of pace, acceleration.
He’s a player who excites us all.
Yet it’s another year or two down the line until he surfaces again.”
By the time Jones and Morris had been introduced, Boro were already on their way to sealing a fourth round place.
There was a brief scare in the first half when Hastings goalkeeper Liam O’Brien got down low to save an Ishmael Miller penalty when it was still goalless.
O’Brien had only signed on loan from Barnet the day before because of an injury to regular goalkeeper Matt Armstrong- Ford. Mowbray said: “The boy had just signed, I’m sure everyone was writing the story when he saved that.
“I said to the players beforehand ‘you’ll either make an inch or two in the papers or it’ll be the full back-page headlines.
Make sure it’s the first’.
“When the penalty was saved I did think it would give them a big lift, thankfully we scored a wonderful goal (Merouane Zemmama) and then scoring again (Andy Halliday) straight after half-time was a big plus. I certainly wouldn’t have been applauding their excellent goal (Bradley Goldberg) if it had been an equaliser.”