MICHAEL Carrick admits he might take the opportunity to give some young players a first team opportunity before the season is out - but they're likely to have to wait until after Monday night's visit of Leeds United.

While Boro's play-off hopes might mathematically disappear this weekend, the visit of Leeds remains a huge game and Carrick will select his strongest possible XI.

The head coach is desperate to extend the current nine-game unbeaten stretch until the end of the campaign, but he hasn't ruled out the possibility of giving young players some match minutes in the final fortnight of the season, with Boro set to travel to Cardiff before wrapping up with a home game against Watford.

It might be that they don't get on the pitch but are included in matchday squads, with Carrick keen to stress the benefits of academy players being around the first team environment. He regularly moves Under-21s up to train with the first team and several of Mark Tinkler's current crop, including Sonny Finch, Law McCabe, Luke Woolston, Pharrell Willis and Charlie Lennon have been named as substitutes in recent weeks.


If the opportunity presents, Carrick will be keen to get academy players on the pitch against Cardiff and Watford.

"It could do, yeah," he admitted when asked whether the coming weeks could see youngsters get an opportunity.

"There are three games and we're certainly conscious of that and managing the three games.

"First of all we're approaching this one to try and win this one. There are still things to play for this season that we haven't given up on yet. We're not getting ahead of ourselves but we'll approach this game and give it everything we can.

"As the next couple of games come after that, we'll see where the land lies, where we stand and who can play."

It's been a good season for Boro's Under-21s, who have secured a place in the end of season Premier League 2 play-offs. And since his appointment, Carrick has never shied away from including young players in the first team squad if he deems them ready.

Carrick said: "We're so keen as coaches to bring the younger players through. The end game is to get them on the pitch for the first team. Sometimes it's about giving them the chance to train with us and develop them that way and give them those opportunities.

"It's not always something everyone might see but we're certainly always aware of trying to give the next ones as much opportunities to take the next step. Some are a little further ahead than others, we'll see what the next few games bring."