Boro’s injury woes will bolster Hastings’ hopes

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Separated by 153 places in the footballing pyramid and 309 miles on a map of the United Kingdom, it is fair to assume Middlesbrough and Hastings are not familiar foes.

The FA Cup has pitted them together for the first time, and after Harrogate missed out on a golden opportunity to set up a lucrative local game in the third round, the trip up to Teesside represents a grand day out for the players, staff and fans of Hastings.

The Sussex club are 17th in the Ryman Premier League, a far cry from the Championship where Boro ply their trade and are in the promotion hunt.

But the minnows will be backed by a vocal support numbering 1,100 at the Riverside Stadium today.

Their hopes of witnessing a Cup shock will have been encouraged by Boro boss Tony Mowbray being without 15 first-team players, including Jonathan Woodgate, Marvin Emnes, Andre Bikey and Emmanuel Ledesma.

In their place come young defenders Paul Weldon and Christian Burgess – who were added to the squad for the New Year’s Day trip to Derby – and academy scholars Jordan Jones, Andre Bennett and Bryn Morris. Jones is a skilful playmaker with Northern Ireland honours, while Morris is England’s Under-17s captain.

“We’ve had to register these three young boys because we basically don’t have a team available,” said Mowbray. “We’ll play the strongest team that’s available to us. The injury list is as bad as it’s been this season and we’ve had a pretty harsh time.

“But there will be no excuses. If we don’t get the result we want it will be nobody’s fault but our own.

“It’s a huge game for them and we have to make sure we show them the respect they deserve, match their effort and hopefully our extra quality will make the difference.”

The majority of injuries are short-term problems for Boro, who may include Faris Haroun on the bench.

The FA Cup has not been kind to Middlesbrough since they dropped out of the Premier League in 2009.

They reached the final in 1997 and three successive quarter-finals before their relegation, but have won only once in the last three years, and that was only a narrow 1-0 triumph over Shrewsbury at the Riverside 12 months ago.