MIDDLESBROUGH will hand Matthew Bates over to Darlington this week, with the young defender lined up to make his Quakers debut at Cambridge United on Saturday, writes Lee Hall.

Bates will finally link up with his new Quakers team-mates later this week, almost a fortnight after moving on loan until the end of the season.

Boro physio Chris Moseley is satisfied with the 18-year-old's fitness after undergoing tests on a back injury at the Teessiders' Hurworth training headquarters.

Bates' availability will come as a timely boost for manager David Hodgson who will be forced to make more changes at the Abbey Stadium. With Jonjo Dickman sidelined after picking up a hamstring injury in Saturday's win over Chester, Hodgson is expected to move Matty Appleby into midfield and bring Bates in for his full debut.

Hodgson is already without defenders David McGurk, Joey Hutchinson and Craig Liddle for the rest of the season.

Skipper Neil Maddison is close to full fitness and is expected to return to training on Thursday after a back injury.

Craig Hignett will see a specialist in Manchester this week, before undergoing a hernia operation. However, the 35-year-old remains hopeful of being fit if Quakers reach the play-offs next month.

* Chester have parted company with assistant manager Mark Aizlewood after Saturday's defeat at Darlington.

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