RYAN SHOTTON will line up against former Middlesbrough team-mate Aden Flint tomorrow – and is ready to take personal responsibility for ensuring the Cardiff City centre-half does not enjoy a successful reunion.

Flint made 42 appearances as he established himself as a key part of Tony Pulis’ first-choice Boro line-up last season, but made a surprise £4m move to Cardiff in July.

He has been an ever-present for the Bluebirds this season, scoring in August’s win over Luton Town, and will be keen to show his old employers what they are missing when he lines up in South Wales tomorrow.

At six foot six, Flint provides a towering presence in both boxes, but having played alongside the 30-year-old on a number of occasions last season, Shotton is confident he can ensure his former defensive partner does not play a key role as Boro look to extend their current unbeaten run to five matches.

“I know Aden very well,” said Shotton, who is expected to retain his place in tomorrow’s starting line-up ahead of Daniel Ayala. “We were pretty close when he was here, so I know him well.

“We know what he can do, he’ll have something to prove but hopefully he won’t have anything to celebrate after 90 minutes. He’s a big lad and very good at set plays, but I’ll pick him up, I don’t mind doing it. I’m sure we’ll have a good laugh along the way, but I’ll take that opportunity to go up against him if it’s there.”

Middlesbrough have already proved their mettle on the road this season, claiming creditable draws against Luton and Bristol City. They had to dig deep in both of those games, and also showcased the strength of their resolve as they saw out 1-0 home wins against Wigan and Reading.

Jonathan Woodgate wants his side to be expansive and retain possession, with his desire to play out from the back having no doubt influenced his decision to sell Flint when Cardiff lodged a formal offer.

Sometimes, however, pragmatism has to take hold, and with Neil Warnock’s Cardiff side sure to offer a physical threat tomorrow, Shotton accepts he and his team-mates will have to be prepared to dig in and match their opponents in the less glamorous side of the game.

“Sometimes, you don’t get the option of playing pretty,” he said. “Sometimes, teams make it hard for you and you have to battle first, but I love the ugly side of the game.

“No disrespect to Cardiff, but they have a very big team and they are strong and they have just come down from the Premier League and have something to prove. We’ve got to go there and put our stamp on it, regardless of them being at home.”

Last weekend, Shotton found himself performing as the senior member of a youthful back four that also featured Dael Fry, Anfernee Dijksteel and Marc Bola, all of whom are aged 22 or under.

While Fry can boast some decent experience, both in the Championship and at international level with England Under-21s, Dijksteel and Bola both stepped up from League One in the summer, but Shotton has been impressed with the way they have adapted to life at a higher level.

“The manager is brave enough to believe in them, and they’ve come here and have not looked out of place,” he said. “They defend well, they get forward well, their attacking presence is brilliant.

“It’s all about them gaining the experience now, and about everyone around them, all the experienced lads, getting around and nurturing them into whatever they can be.

“They’ve proved they can do it now, it’s just about them keeping their heads, keeping their feet on the ground, and learning from every experience they get.”