WITH Neil Warnock on the verge of making a full-time return to work after recovering from Covid, Kevin Blackwell is delighted to see Dael Fry also back up to full speed after his own positive test for coronavirus.

Fry was a second-half replacement for Grant Hall this afternoon as Middlesbrough claimed a 1-1 draw with QPR at Loftus Road.

With Hall set for a scan on his injured calf next week, Fry could now find himself in the team for a sustained run of games, having been forced to play catch-up in the closing stages of pre-season after contracting coronavirus earlier this summer.

The Teessider had to isolate for 14 days during pre-season, and is only now starting to get back up to full speed.

Blackwell said: “Dael got Covid in the summer, missed pre-season and it was a case of catching up.

“We know what Covid can do, it can drain you physically. He wasn't able to do the high-tempo stuff we were asking but he's been trying to catch up.

“When he came on he was dominant, strong and I don't think he gave (Lyndon) Dykes a look-in. I was really pleased for him, it was good to have him back.

“We know how good Dael can be, to think he's only 23. Yeah, really pleased with him today.”

Blackwell was equally satisfied with Chuba Akpom’s performance, with the £2.75m signing from PAOK Salonika marking his Middlesbrough debut with a goal as he headed home Paddy McNair’s corner to open the scoring.

The Boro assistant said: “What's the perfect start for a striker? It's getting a goal on your debut and he's done exactly that. At least now he's not chasing for a goal.

“It's important as a striker you're seen to do your job and that is scoring goals. That has taken a lot of weight off his shoulders, psychologically whether he thinks about it or not.”

Blackwell’s main frustration was referee Dean Whitestone’s failure to award Boro a first-half penalty when Dykes appeared to haul back Grant Hall in the box.

He said: “We are a bit frustrated really because I thought we created the better chances.

“QPR were a threat on the break, but that was more to do with our final ball not being as good as it could be and then they were at us.

“I thought it was a penalty on Hally all day long - I don't get how the referee hasn't seen it.”