Boro on the mend after glut of injuries

The Northern Echo: NO DEAL: Nicky Bailey NO DEAL: Nicky Bailey

MIDDLESBROUGH return to Championship action when Watford visit the Riverside on Saturday and Tony Mowbray could be boosted by the return of several first-team players.

Mowbray's squad has been decimated by injuries in recent weeks with 14 members of the first-team squad spending time in the treatment room.

However, a bulk of those players are expected to return this weekend when Boro look to get their league form back on track after the New Year's Day defeat at Derby County.

Andre Bikey, Seb Hines, George Friend and Emmanual Ledesma are likely to return to training this morning, but the Teessiders could also welcome back Jonathan Woodgate, Scott McDonald and Justin Hoyte.

Mowbray revealed after his side's FA Cup third round win over Hastings that the majority of players in the treatment room were suffering from fatigue related injuries.

But having had a full week to rest, recover and prepare - a rarity for the Boro squad because of a hectic league schedule - Mowbray will give his injured stars every chance of playing against Watford.

Grant Leadbitter did not play at the weekend, but Nicky Bailey is available to continue in midfield if needed.

The 28-year-old's first-team opportunities have been limited this season in comparison to previous years, but injuries have seen him start Boro's last three games.

He has six months left to run on his contract and the player revealed talks over an extension were yet to happen.

The midfielder was signed under Gordon Strachan's stewardship and he remains one of the highest paid players at the club.

Ultimately, it appears his future could hinge on whether Boro win promotion at the end of the season, but Mowbray insists his dynamic midfielder still has a huge part to play this season.

"Nicky's got a massive part to play and while he will be frustrated in not playing so much, I'm just trying to give the team a better chance of scoring at home particularly.

"He was a goalscoring midfielder at Charlton, but for me he's generally been a defensive anchor in the team and while some games we need that, other days we don't need that type of asset and quality, we need a different team and that's why selection has been what it is.

"They all just have to keep trying their best and when he's asked to Nicky will give everything he's got."

Meanwhile, Boro's FA Cup fourth round tie against Aldershot will go ahead as scheduled on Saturday, January 26, 3pm kick-off.

ITV and ESPN have chosen the games to be shown live, but Boro's match is not on that list.

The five games to be shown are: Crystal Palace or Stoke v Man City (Sat 12.45 ITV), Man Utd or West Ham v Blackpool or Fulham (Sat 5.30 ESPN), Southend or Brentford v Chelsea (Sun 12 noon ESPN), Leeds or Birmingham v Tottenham (Sun 2.00 ESPN), Oldham v Liverpool (Sun 4.00 ITV).

n Boro Season Card holders can benefit from a "friends and family" ticket offer for their next Championship game, against Watford on Saturday (3pm).

The club are offering season card holders the chance to buy additional tickets for £12 and £7.

This offer will not be available to non-season card holders.

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