TONY PULIS faces a defensive crisis for the rest of Middlesbrough’s promotion run-in amid fears Daniel Ayala’s season has come to a premature end.

The Spanish defender today expects to learn the extent of the knee injury he sustained in the second half of Saturday’s much-needed 1-0 win over Hull City at the Riverside Stadium.

He had to go to hospital with his knee in a brace after six-and-a-half minutes of treatment on the Riverside pitch following an aerial collision with Hull’s Fraizer Campbell.

Ayala will be lucky to figure again before the end of the campaign and he will definitely miss the Easter fixtures, when Boro face stoke on Good Friday and Nottingham Forest on Easter Monday.

And with George Friend already ruled out for the rest of the campaign, Boro are down to the bare bones and can’t afford any more injuries to his defenders.

“We’re pretty concerned with Dani. He’s gone off to hospital so we’ll see what the situation is.

“It’s his knee. I think it was the landing not the challenge,” said Pulis. “Obviously we lost Danny Batth at Christmas time (who joined Stoke from Wolves).

“We thought we were well set with defenders then Stoke came in and took Danny. When you look at it now ... but we have to get on with it. The gods haven’t been kind to us in respect of injuries we’ve had recently.”

Middlesbrough only have Ryan Shotton, Aden Flint and Dael Fry available as recognised first team defenders.

Midfielder Jonny Howson finished the game at right-back, while Fry was on the left. George Saville, another midfielder, has also operated as a wing-back in recent months.

There were no defenders on the bench against Hull, although Paddy McNair can be used there but he indicated to the manager earlier this season he does not want to play in defence.

Middlesbrough will looking for more strong displays from Fry and Howson, who helped to keep a clean sheet and Hull at bay despite switching positions against the Tigers.

Pulis said: “Dael was good. I am not going to go against anyone because they all had to work hard and play well. Jonny when he went to right-back, when he had to keep one of the top wingers quiet, was excellent.”

Now Boro, a point behind sixth-placed Bristol City, who have a game in hand, want to build on two wins inside a week.

Pulis said: “It’s there for us to grasp and take, they have to play with more confidence at times. There are twists and turns to come. You need a little bit of good fortune, you need a little bit of luck and we need to play well.”



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