MIDDLESBROUGH captain Jonny Howson can relax after successfully negotiating a disciplinary tightrope in recent weeks and avoiding suspension.

Ever since Howson picked up his ninth yellow card of the season in the win at Sheffield United, the Boro skipper has been one caution away from having to serve a two-game ban.

But Tuesday night's visit of Stoke City - the 37th game of the season - was the cut-off for 10 yellows, meaning Howson no longer has the threat of a suspension hanging over him.

"He's been on that for a few games Jonny and managed it well," said Carrick, after Howson avoided a booking in the 1-1 draw with Stoke.

"It's not something we've spoken about, he's obviously been aware of it and he's managed it well. It's great we're not losing him and he's available. He's done well. I'm glad we've got him for the next few games."


Perhaps with the suspension threat in mind, Carrick replaced Howson at the midway point of the second half against Stoke, with January signing Dan Barlaser introduced.

Boro welcomed Dael Fry back into the squad on Tuesday night after the defender missed the Swansea game with illness, but were again without Matt Crooks.

Carrick said: "He was close for this one. We'll see for the weekend. He might be there, he might just miss out, it's touch and go again, we'll wait and see."