MICHAEL Carrick is still sweating over the fitness of key duo Dael Fry and Hayden Hackney ahead of Middlesbrough’s trip to Leeds United on Saturday, with the head coach admitting “it could go either way”.

Hackney missed the midweek win over Preston with a groin injury, while Fry was also absent with a hamstring problem, and Carrick says it’s still not clear at this stage whether either will be fit to return at Elland Road.

Carrick says he’s also still waiting for a definitive verdict on Lukas Engel’s injury after the full-back was forced off at Bristol City last week, with Alex Bangura in line to continue at left-back on Saturday.

Boro head for Elland Road brimming with belief after their midweek hammering of North End, but it would be a major blow to be without Fry and Hackney again for one of the toughest Championship tests, with Leeds having – who are third in the table – having lost just one of their last nine games.

“It’s similar to how it was,” said Carrick of the pair yesterday, with the Boro head coach always reluctant to give too much away on injuries.

“We have another day tomorrow so we’ll see how Dael and Hayden are. It could go either way.

“Lukas is similar. Again, we’re just hoping. We’re trying to give the boys as long as they can have and we’ll see whether the boys can be involved at the weekend, whether they can start or whether they’ll be missing, we’re still not sure.”

Fry and Hackney joined a long list of absentees, with Boro missing as many as eight senior first team players against Preston on Tuesday night. With so many players out injured, Carrick admits Boro have examined their own approach and training load but the fact there’s such a wide range of problems – some muscle, some impact, some incredible unfortunate twists – suggests they’ve just been the victim of bad luck.

He said: “We look at it and look at what can we do better on a weekly basis and any injury we get we think is there something we could have avoided. Sometimes maybe there is, sometimes you think we might have been able to but it probably wouldn’t have made any difference and sometimes you just have to accept it’s one of them things and it’s a twist or an impact injury.

“All sorts comes into it but there’s such a variety at the minute it’s difficult to pin it down to anything. Hopefully we can get the boys back quick and make the most of it when they are back.”


Tommy Smith, Darragh Lenihan, Marcus Forss and Riley McGree all have longer term injuries, as does Lewis O’Brien. The Nottingham Forest loanee fractured his tibia and suffered ankle damage in the win at Watford two months ago, and although he’s nowhere near being close to a return to action, the midfielder is making good progress.

Carrick said: “He’s OK. He’s going through his rehab so he’s still a good number of weeks away, but he’s making good progress and he’s in and around us here and working his way back. There’s a group of them.

“I’m not putting a timeframe on that. He’s been out for a number of weeks and will be out for a good few more weeks, I don’t want to put a timeframe on it otherwise you’ll be asking me is he fit if I give you dates. I’m not going down that road just yet.”