NICKY Bailey is not a regular right-back, but Tony Mowbray admits he selected the midfielder in a defensive role on Saturday out of tactical preference rather than necessity.
Bailey made a rare appearance in the full-back berth as Middlesbrough slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Watford that leaves them in fifth position in the Championship table.
Stuart Parnaby, a much more established right-back, was named among the substitutes, and the 30-year-old was fully fit after starting the club's previous two matches.
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But Mowbray instead preferred to go with Bailey's more abrasive qualities, a decision that appeared justified as the hosts dominated the first half but perhaps robbed Boro of some much-needed attacking threat as they attempted to chase the game after the interval.
“It was tactical really around trying to make sure we didn't get hit on the counter-attack,” said the Boro boss, who will assess Ishmael Miller later today after the striker sustained a leg injury in the latter stages of Saturday's game.
“I wanted to try to get a more defensive, robust type of footballer playing in that area of the pitch, someone who wasn't going to force themselves up the line, try to get crosses in and play too high.
“It was a more naturally defensive-minded player that I wanted. It sounds strange because Stuart is a right-back, but as you see when I play Nicky in midfield, he naturally migrates deep and wants to play in front of the back four.
“It was a positional thing and in the first half, I thought it was evident that they couldn't get near our goal and weren't really a threat. Yet the first goal obviously changed things a little bit.”
After taking the lead through Matej Vydra's strike on the stroke of half-time, Watford controlled the second half and repeatedly threatened on the counter-attack.
Gianfranco Zola's side are unbeaten in their last six Championship away games and the Italian is proving to be an astute man manager and tactician.
Nyron Nosworthy, who impressed at the heart of the Watford back four at the weekend, won promotion from the Championship with Sunderland under Roy Keane, and while Zola could hardly be more different to the volatile former Black Cats manager, the defender feels his new boss is more than capable of securing a promotion success of his own.
“They are very different, but it would be fantastic if we could repeat what we achieved at Sunderland six years ago,” said Nosworthy, who was a popular figure during his time on Wearside. “The boss is a lovely man and is very relaxed, but when it's time to work, it's time to work.
“He gets everyone working for each other and he's got a good feeling around the camp. There are a lot of similarities with what happened at Sunderland. A lot of players have been brought in, but they've all blended. We've got a good mix going on.”