NATHANIEL MENDEZ-LAING is unlikely to feature in the final two games of Middlesbrough’s season – but Neil Warnock has hinted that the striker could still be offered a contract for next term.

Mendez-Laing joined Middlesbrough as a free agent at the start of February, but his involvement over the last three months has been restricted two starts and seven substitute appearances.

His only goal came in March’s 3-0 win over Stoke City, and Warnock accepts that the 29-year-old has not really had a chance to show what he is capable of in a Boro shirt.

The pair had a successful spell together at Cardiff City though, so while Mendez-Laing’s form over the last few months might not really warrant the award of a new contract, Warnock has hinted that the prior performances in Wales might still secure him a deal.

“I think he’s fortunate in the fact that I know him,” said the Boro boss. “We’ve seen glimpses of him, but you’ve not seen his best here at Middlesbrough so far.

“He’s got to get games under his belt and have a good pre-season. I think a lot will depend on what he sees for himself next season, not just what we see, and we’ll have to play that by ear.

“For now, he’s getting better, but it’s touch and go whether he’ll be fit enough to return and his contract is obviously up as well. From his point of view, he has to get himself right for pre-season, so I can’t expect him to come back for one game if he’s not quite right.”

Having introduced Josh Coburn and Connor Malley from the substitutes’ bench in the last couple of matches, Warnock will continue to focus on youth for Boro’s remaining two games.

Both Coburn and Malley will be in the squad for today’s penultimate outing of the season at Luton, with Warnock hinting that another couple of youngsters could find themselves making a senior debut before the end of the campaign.

Hayden Hackney, who played in January’s FA Cup tie at Brentford, has been on the bench for the last couple of games, along with Williams Kokolo and Jack Robinson.

“The young lads will have opportunities in pre-season, and sometimes they go away as boys and come back as men,” said Warnock. “I’m optimistic these lads will come and be a little bit stronger and show us what they can do. There’s a couple of lads who have not had an opportunity yet that I think have done really well. It’ll be interesting over the next couple of games to see if I can give them a little bit of time.

“Going forward, we do need a lot more younger players than we probably first thought. It gives them an incentive to work hard through the summer, and build themselves up so they’re ready to go."

Middlesbrough (probable, 3-4-2-1): Archer; McNair, Hall, Bola; Kebano, Howson, Saville, Johnson; Watmore, Bolasie; Akpom.