TONY MOWBRAY is making no apologies for his likely decision to rotate his line-up at fellow promotion hopefuls Crystal Palace.
Middlesbrough’s manager will be forced into at least one change at centre-back, with Jonathan Woodgate set to miss out after coming off in the second half of Tuesday night’s victory over former club Leeds United, which ended a debilitating run of five successive Championship losses.
Fellow defenders Seb Hines and Andre Bikey are also doubts, although even if all his players were fit, Mowbray – whose switching of formations and personnel has been a major theme of this season as he analyses each set of opponents on an individual basis – says he would have tinkered with his side.
On the game with the Eagles, who have won just three of their last 11 matches, he said: “Watching Palace, first and foremost, you have got to be conscious of their attacking threat and try to nullify them if you can with the right selection.
“It is no good trying to stop them for 90 minutes. Invariably, somebody will slip up, somebody will lose a bit of concentration and you could lose 1-0.
“It is always about trying to get a balance with the team you select.”
With Woodgate expected to be sidelined, Mowbray’s pressing concern is at the back, with a possibility being to move George Friend to centre-back, with Andy Halliday, who came on in the second period in the 1-0 success over Leeds, slotting in at left-back.
Mowbray, whose side visit Burnley on Tuesday night, added: “We are going to have to dig deep, I think. But we will go there and give a good account of ourselves and see whether we can get a result.
“Woody can make such a difference to our team as we saw on Tuesday night, but I don’t think he will make the weekend.”
Kieron Dyer is in contention after being rested in midweek and Ishmael Miller, who made his return from injury in midweek when he came on as a substitute, is close to full fitness and also eyeing a start.
Mowbray’s counterpart Ian Holloway has also had plenty of selection concerns, but he is confident Palace are back on track and will soon start breaching the wins column with regularity again.