THEY might be better known as central midfielders, but Paddy McNair insists he and Jonny Howson are more than happy to continue playing as emergency centre-halves and claims the positional switch is not the issue many might consider it to be.

With Dael Fry and Grant Hall both unavailable because of injury, McNair and Howson played in a three-man backline with Sol Bamba during Saturday’s 2-0 win over Peterborough.

Lee Peltier’s return from suspension increases Neil Warnock’s options ahead of Wednesday night’s home game with Barnsley, but with further injury issues in both of the wing-back positions, there is every chance at least one of McNair and Howson will have to continue in a central-defensive role against the Tykes.

McNair has switched between defence and midfield throughout his career, and while some players prefer to be regarded as specialists in a specific position, the Northern Irishman is happy to be Boro's Mr Versatile.

“I spoke to Dael (Fry) when I was away on the international break, and he said he’d be a few weeks,” said McNair, who scored Boro’s opening goal at the weekend from the penalty spot. “It was the same with Hally (Grant Hall) too, so I came back here knowing I was going to be playing in the defence.

“I feel comfortable there, and I’m happy to do it. I’ve always really switched between the two. I don’t think it’s too much of a big ask, and I thought Jonny was brilliant there (against Peterborough) too. Then you’ve got Sol (Bamba) as well.

“Jonny has obviously played midfield and has had to drop into defence for us, but I don’t think it’s too big of a difference for us. It’s nothing new for us, and it was good to get the clean sheet.”

As well as having to make changes at centre-half at the weekend, Warnock had to field Marcus Tavernier and Onel Hernandez as emergency wing-backs in the absence of Anfernee Dijksteel, Marc Bola and Peltier.

Again, though, McNair does not feel having to play the duo out of position is too much of a handicap, indeed if anything, he argues the pair’s ability to force their opponents back downfield could work in Boro’s favour.

“They’re very attacking players, but they can do the other side of it too,” he said, in an interview with BBC Radio Tees. “I don’t think Onel or Tav let their man go at any stage, and if was playing wing-back against either of them, then I wouldn’t want to go forward as much.

“I think, in a way, it actually helps us to peg teams back because if the right-back wants to go, then he’s leaving Onel and might have to chase 70 yards to get back at him. I think sometimes it can work to your advantage to go very attacking at home.”

Boro’s players will hope to get on the front foot on Wednesday as they host a Barnsley side that have dropped into the relegation zone after failing to win any of their last ten games.

The Teessiders’ weekend win lifted them back into the top half of the table, and for all that they have been infuriatingly inconsistent this season, they remain just five points adrift of the play-off positions.

“I don’t think we’ve won back-to-back games yet this season, so we need to do that on Wednesday," said McNair. "Results wise, a week in the Championship can flip you from 14th up to sixth or vice-versa."