TONY PULIS is having to weigh up Middlesbrough’s defensive changes again ahead of Saturday’s trip to Birmingham City.

Summer signing Aden Flint is missing for the next few weeks with the hamstring injury that kept him out of the last two games. Ryan Shotton remains sidelined with a knee injury.

Daniel Ayala has been monitored this week having played against Peterborough in the FA Cup last weekend despite carrying a knock sustained at Derby County on New Year’s Day.

And while Ayala is expected to be fit, Pulis is considering what he has available and will assess things one last time after Friday's training session.

On-loan Wolves defender Danny Batth is available as an alternative option at the heart of the defence, where Ayala and Fry both started against Peterborough. Fry can also play right-back, which is where Paddy McNair turned in a decent display in that game.

Further forward Pulis looks set to have Ashley Fletcher available again. Fletcher has beenn wanted by Hull City and there have been detailed discussions aimed at moving him on.

However, Fletcher, who has impressed when he has had a chance this season, does not look like he will joining the Tigers any time soon.

Hull boss Nigel Adkins said: "Fletcher isn't going to happen."

It also looks as if Accrington will sign Boro's young striker Luke Armstrong later today. He has been on loan at Gateshead.  

Boro were drawn earlier this week against Pulis’ hometown team Newport in the FA Cup fourth round.

Exiles’ boss Michael Flynn has described his more experienced counterpart as a “great manager” and explained how they are already friends. He has also tried to sign a Boro player on loan and has ex-Boro midfield prospect Matty Dolan in his ranks.

“We’ve had a few texts already and, funnily enough, I spoke to him last Friday because I was after a player,” Flynn told the South Wales Argus.

“We had a good conversation then and Tony is as good as gold. He’s Newport born and bred, he’s played for the club, he went to the same high school as myself (St Joseph’s), we’re both from Pill, he’s still got the Newport twang, and I know his family – I know his brother Ray really well – so it’s nice.

“Tony is somebody I’ve always respected. I’ve played against one of his teams and now it will be good to lock horns as a manager against him.

“He’s a great manager. He gets a bit of stick, but he wins football matches and you have to be careful what you wish for sometimes.”

Flynn’s side stunned Leicester in the third round. He added: “I don’t think the players will have Middlesbrough on their mind but they are playing for their places now (at Boro).”