Goalkeeper: Lee Camp
Lee Camp’s mistake at the Macron Stadium ultimately proved the difference between the two relegation-threatened teams, but, with options limited, he’s likely to keep his place between the sticks. This week’s launch of Roker Rapport TV did raise the question of how Max Stryjek must be feeling, and I continue to sympathise.
Defenders: Matthews, Kone, O’Shea, Clarke-Salter, Oviedo
Reverting to a back five worked better at Bolton.
John O’Shea looked far more comfortable with support around him. Our captain’s legs aren’t what they used to be, so it’s important we don’t leave him exposed.
Bryan Oviedo’s return on the left gave us better balance and allowed Jake Clarke-Salter to play his favoured role in the back three. The Chelsea youngster is a decent defender, but finds the physical side of the game a struggle at times. He benefits greatly from having the experienced O’Shea next to him.
Lamine Kone came back into the side and looked comfortable throughout. If we can get the Ivorian firing on all cylinders, his power and physicality will be vital in stabilising an often nervous back-line.
I would expect the three centre-halves to retain their positions. Tyias Browning would be the obvious alternative, but I don’t see him adding anything more than those three at this time. He has faded in recent weeks and would probably benefit from the break, having played throughout the season for first Simon Grayson and now Coleman.
Billy Jones gave an improved performance against Bolton but, if Adam Matthews can prove his fitness, I would expect to see the Welshman return to the side today. Matthews, like Oviedo on the left, gives us better mobility and we need our wing-backs to get back into position if we are improve our defensive play.
Midfielders: Cattermole, McNair, Honeyman
The midfield choice on Tuesday, on the whole, worked well. I’m guessing we won’t deviate from that selection this afternoon.
Lee Cattermole had one of his better games and I would hope, if anyone is up for the game today, it would be him. A product of the Middlesbrough academy, Catts made his debut for the Teesside club in January 2006. At only eighteen, he became their youngest captain and made 91 appearances, scoring four goals. If we are to get anything from this game, Cattermole has to produce a controlled performance and sensibly protect his defence from a powerful and mobile Boro attack.
Alongside him on Tuesday was the energetic Paddy McNair. The Irishman provided an effective box-to-box presence in midfield that we have lacked in recent months. Understandably fading as the second half wore on, his careful reintroduction will be a huge boost for us as we enter the final few months of the season. Ovie Ejaria will have another late fitness test, but I expect McNair to hold his place today. He will have to support Cattermole to win the midfield battle, but we also need to see him turn defence into attack with his driving runs.
George Honeyman worked his socks off on Tuesday and seemed to play every position bar goalkeeper. Mores the pity, as he might have done better than the guy asked to keep the ball out of our net. I laid a claim for Jonny Williams to return against Bolton, but after his display in the North-West, I expect Coleman to stick with the Academy product against Boro. Honeyman has linked well with Oviedo in the past and, with a little more composure, can provide a creative spark further up the field. If we are to get any points today, we need all our players to be on their game; perhaps none more so than our George.
Attackers: Asoro & Maja
Joel Asoro has quickly become the first nameon the team sheet - his youthful exuberance has caught the eye of fans and management. Having only scored once this season, in the home game against Hull City, there is hope that he can add to his tally in the weeks to come. It would be most welcome if he hit the net this afternoon.
Alongside him, I’d be tempted to start with Josh Maja. Ashley Fletcher is ineligible to play against his parent club, but he missed some good chances at Bolton, so perhaps a change was due.
Coleman certainly has options, where he could play a deeper lying forward, such as Aiden McGeady, but I hope he trusts the blossoming partnership from the U23 graduates. Maja is a clever player and could be key to unlocking a stubborn defence and creating space for his speedy partner to exploit.