JONATHAN WOODGATE hailed his ‘walking wounded’ after Middlesbrough’s returning stars helped secure a 2-2 draw at QPR.

When he spoke to the press three days ago, Woodgate fully expected Darren Randolph, George Friend and Ashley Fletcher to play no part at Loftus Road.

However, despite nursing long-term injury problems, the trio all made themselves available for selection, something Woodgate feels is indicative of the sense of commitment and application that exists within his squad.

“On Wednesday, we had Randolph out, George Friend only just back in training, so I didn’t think he would be playing either, and then Fletcher out too,” said the Boro head coach. “But all three came and knocked on my door on Friday morning and said, ‘Gaffer, I want to play’.

“All three of them. They weren’t 100 per cent fit, but they said, ‘I want to play for you’. That’s top. The situation we’re going through at the minute is difficult, and we’re scrapping and battling, so they could have taken the easy option and not played.

“Darren could have said, ‘I’m not 100 per cent, I want to wait for Ireland’, but he played today. George played even though he’s only had three training sessions. Ashley has been struggling with a calf strain, but he played.

“They want to play for us, and it was really positive for me to see that from my team. It shows what the players are like. They want to stick together and they want to play for me.”

Woodgate also reserved special praise for Britt Assombalonga, with striker putting last weekend’s horror miss at Derby County behind him as he scored both of his side’s goal.

Assombalonga opened the scoring with a close-range header before capitalising on Nakhi Wells’ errant back-pass to level the scores in the second half.

“I’ve been telling him to stay confident because he will score goals,” said Woodgate. “I’ll back him no matter what – I’ll always back my (number) nine.

“He’ll always score goals, and that showed. I thought he was terrific today. Him and Fletcher were very good together, and I thought we played well.

“There was an offside goal at the start which wasn’t offside, and I thought we should have had a penalty. They’re decisions aren’t they. We all make mistakes, it happens.”