DAEL FRY will step up his recovery from a hamstring injury when he lines up for Boro’s Under-23s against Stoke City at Bishop Auckland tonight.

Fry is set to play for the opening hour at Heritage Park, and could return to Middlesbrough's first-team squad for next Tuesday’s home game with Wigan Athletic.

“I’m going to watch Dael play at Bishop Auckland,” said Boro head coach Jonathan Woodgate. “I’m going to watch that before I travel across to Blackburn. It’ll be a huge step forward.

“I purposefully haven’t rushed Dael because, as I’ve said before, I had a time when I had a thigh injury. It’s hamstring with him, but it’s a similar injury with the tendon. I don’t want to rush things and spoil his career.

“We’ve taken a lot of time, but he’s ticked a lot of boxes in training and done a lot of sprinting. The best way to rehabilitate a hamstring is sprinting, especially towards the end of the process.

“It’s going to be great to have Dael back because he’s a really good player. I don’t want to put too much pressure on him, but he’s a really, really good player. I’m sure in the future, whatever he does in the next four or five years, he’s going to have a really successful career. I’m looking forward to having him back.”

While Fry will not be involved when Middlesbrough take on Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park tomorrow, George Friend is available after making his return from a thigh problem in Tuesday’s Carabao Cup defeat to Crewe. Friend is set to replace Hayden Coulson at left-back as the youngster is struggling with a knock.