DAEL FRY is ready to step in and plug Middlesbrough’s gap at centre-half if Paddy McNair is ruled out of Saturday’s game at Reading.

McNair was dismissed in the closing stages of Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Huddersfield Town, with referee Jeremy Simpson deeming that he used excessive force as he challenged Juninho Bacuna.

Boro have lodged an appeal against the dismissal, citing video evidence that shows McNair winning the ball even though he challenged with his studs showing, but if their attempts to have the red card overturned are unsuccessful, the Northern Ireland international will be suspended for Saturday’s trip to the Madejski Stadium.

Neil Warnock will be keen to retain the five-man defensive shape he installed against Huddersfield, so Fry’s return from injury could hardly be more timely. The Teessider has been sidelined since suffering a muscular problem in last month’s goalless draw at Norwich, but came through a training session unscathed on Tuesday and is on track to be included in the squad for the Reading game.

“I’ve told Dael he’s got to be right for Saturday now if Paddy is suspended,” said Warnock. “It was lovely to see Dael training. Before the game I was thinking, ‘Why am I a little bit down?’ And it was because Dael wasn’t fit. He cheers me up a bit when he’s fit because he’s the best in the league. Hopefully, he’ll be okay for Reading now.”

Marcus Tavernier also trained on Tuesday, but Warnock expects to err on the side of caution and leave the midfielder out of his thoughts for the weekend.

Tavernier has been sidelined since tweaking a muscle in the home defeat to Blackburn, and has been pencilled in for a possible return in next Tuesday’s home game with Bristol City.

“Tav is probably another week away,” said Warnock, who saw his side end a five-game winless run as they triumphed on Tuesday. “He trained along with Dael, it’s just with Tav there’s a little issue with his knee when he side-kicks the ball. He’s just feeling little bits still.

“They’ve both had good injections. I think Dael’s actually had an epidural – I thought you only had those when you were pregnant – but he’s had one, and Tav’s had one as well to clear all the blood around the injury.

"They’ve both responded to that and are doing really well, but I won’t push Tav on Saturday. I’d hope he should be available for Bristol City and Cardiff though.”