THE Championship season reaches the halfway stage on Boxing Day, but Tony Mowbray claims it is still too early to talk of Middlesbrough as promotion contenders.

The Teessiders are just three points off the summit of the table following a weekend that saw them come from behind to claim a 3-2 win at Cardiff while leaders Southampton could only draw with their south-coast rivals Portsmouth.

Boro have filled a top-four position ever since they beat Barnsley in their third game of the season, but with the Championship as competitive as ever, Mowbray is refusing to even consider his side's promotion prospects until they have played another two months of football.

“It continues for another ten games at least before you really know where you are,” said the Boro boss, who has seen his side suffer just three league defeats all season. “We have to keep going.

“When we are talking 12 games to go, then we will look at where we are and what we can achieve. If we are still up there then, then we have to see it over the line.

“There will be tests that come from nowhere and we have to be conscious of the table. For the moment though, it is the next game and that is all. Hull will be a massive test on Boxing Day because they are doing really well under Nicky Barmby.”

Nevertheless, Boro's fine recent form should strengthen Mowbray's hand when it comes to keeping hold of his most talented players during next month's transfer window.

The former skipper expects to be able to rebuff any offers for the likes of Matthew Bates, Rhys Williams and Joe Bennett, and is hoping to be able to add to his attacking ranks before the window closes.

He had been hoping to run the rule over Loris Arnaud this week, but the French striker, who has been told to seek alternative employment by his current club, Paris St Germain, returned to Paris over the weekend after a brief spell at Rockliffe Park proved unfruitful.

“He's gone home,” said Mowbray. “He's probably going to come back in January. It was a bit unfair last week with the weather more than anything else.

“A development game got cancelled on Tuesday that we were going to play him in. It wasn't really fair on him. The preparation of the team was all important over the last few days so it wasn't really a full training week. He's going to come back in the new year and we will have another look.”

Meanwhile, former Boro striker Kris Boyd has severed his ties with Turkish side Eskisehirspor and started legal proceedings in an attempt to reclaim money he says he is owed.

Boyd, who left Teesside on a free transfer in the summer, has played just 76 minutes for his new employers, who offered him a three-year deal.

“Kris has triggered a release clause in his contract,” confirmed the striker's agent, Mark Donaghy. “His contract has been terminated because of late payments and a legal process in now under way. He will now head back to the UK.”