WITH two matches remaining, Middlesbrough can’t afford any more slip-ups. Even if they win their final two matches against Reading and Rotherham, those six points might still not be enough to secure a Championship play-off place.

But what team should manager Tony Pulis field when the Royals visit the Riverside tomorrow? Boro’s supporters will not be afraid to let their feelings known after the defensive horror show at Nottingham Forest on Monday.

Middlesbrough have problems at the back, with Dael Fry, George Friend and Daniel Ayala ruled out for the remaining games, so Pulis will have to be creative with what he has available – particularly if he doesn’t want to hand starts to Nathan Wood and Djed Spence.

Pulis has wanted to stick with three centre-backs, but has the time come for a change? Here are a few of the options for the Boro boss to consider:

3-5-2: Randolph; McNair, Flint, Shotton; Howson, Mikel, Clayton, Besic, Saville; Fletcher, Assombalonga

A case of as you were. It did secure a home win against Hull City,and would mean no changes, asking Jonny Howson and George Saville to operate as wing-backs. And, despite calls from fans, it would mean overlooking forward-thinkers Marcus Tavernier and Stewart Downing again, as well as keeping Jordan Hugill and Rudy Gestede on the bench.

4-2-3-1: Randolph; Shotton, McNair, Flint, Downing; Mikel, Besic; Tavernier, Howson, Fletcher; Assombalonga

This would mean Paddy McNair keeping his spot in the middle of the defence, with Ryan Shotton slotting in at right-back where he does look more comfortable than on the left of a three. Stewart Downing would start on the opposite side, where he has played before. Howson, arguably Boro’s best outfield player this season, could then play further forward, with Tavernier and Fletcher supporting Assombalonga down the flanks.

4-4-2: Randolph; Howson, Shotton, Flint, Downing; Tavernier, Mikel, Besic, Saville; Fletcher, Assombalonga

Playing Mo Besic alongside John Obi Mikel in the middle as a two would mean the Bosnian being given the greater freedom to join with the attacks. If Howson and Downing operated as full-backs, then George Saville could stay down the left where he would not have as much defending to do when he has been a wing-back. Fletcher and Assombalonga would stay in attack.

4-1-4-1: Randolph; Howson, Shotton, Flint, Downing; Mikel; Tavernier, Besic, Clayton, Saville; Assombalonga

This is the only one that would mean Fletcher missing out, purely because Saville would provide Pulis with the defensive side down the left of a four that Fletcher wouldn’t.

Saville and Downing could easily switch, allowing the latter to get further up the field like he prefers. Tavernier, would be the recognised forward-thinker on the right, and deserves a chance. Assombalonga and Fletcher are still ahead of Hugill and in the pecking order.