TONY PULIS thinks Mo Besic could have a crucial role to play in the Championship run-in now that the Middlesbrough midfielder doesn’t have any international football to worry about.

The Bosnian midfielder has struggled to maintain his decent standards of form this season when he has returned from playing with his country.

But when he has played well it has tended to coincide with Boro playing better and that was the case on Tuesday at Bolton when he returned to the midfield.

That was after Besic had been left out of the starting line-up for four games before that, all ending in defeat, having also disappointed on a personal level in losses to Brentford and Preston.

The on loan Everton man is even more important to the squad given Lewis Wing is sidelined through injury and requiring hernia surgery which is likely to mean he does not play again this season.

But Pulis feels he was left with little choice but to leave Besic out during that period because of his obvious drops in performance levels.

“Mo, when he goes away with his country he tends to come back and struggle,” said Pulis. “We've looked at it over a period of a year, we wanted to give him a few days’ rest.

“He was biting at the chip to play on Saturday, again (like with Ashley Fletcher) I thought these two games this week would be his games rather than Saturday.

“He's played really well (at Bolton), but he tired. He was cramping up a bit. He still hasn't got those two games (Bosnia) out of his system.”

Besic and Fletcher were recalled at Bolton and that benefitted the team, so the hope now will be that they can deliver again this Saturday when Hull City travel to the Riverside.

That is the first of the five remaining matches and Middlesbrough must claw back a four point deficit to the play-off zone during that period to stand a chance of still getting promoted.

Even though Middlesbrough did beat Bolton on Tuesday, the atmosphere around the Riverside is still likely to be fraught on Saturday if the home side don’t start well.

Pulis has plenty of critics on Teesside and a positive start will be needed against the Tigers to avoid any vocal disapproval against him, like he endured in the last home defeat to Bristol City.

The Middlesbrough manager said: “It’s another game on Saturday, that's most important now. We’ve got to approach it in the right manner. We played some smashing stuff (at Bolton), but then we have in the other games.”

Hull will head to Middlesbrough having clawed themselves to within a point of their opponents, so have a late play-off charge in their own minds.

The battle for a top six spot will also have a huge game this weekend when fifth-place Aston Villa and sixth-placed Bristol City, who sit four points above Pulis’ side, meet.