Dale Fry and Marcus Tavernier's absences make Neil Warnock's heart grow fonder for Middlesbrough pair

MISS: Middlesbrough centre-back Dael FryMISS: Middlesbrough centre-back Dael Fry
MISS: Middlesbrough centre-back Dael Fry
Neil Warnock says being without Dael Fry and Marcus Tavernier through injury has made him realise how important they are to Middlesbrough, but he will not be rushing them back for Tuesday's Championship match at home to Huddersfield Town.

With just two wins in 10 post-Christmas matches, Boro could do with Fry and Tavernier to revive their play-off hopes, but they did have the lift of a debut from the bench for Nathaniel Mendez-Laing in Saturday's defeat at Derby County.

“Dael and Tav stepped up training a lot on Sunday but with got so many games coming up it's more important they are okay and that we have them for the run-in,” said Warnock.

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“You don't realise how important players are until you haven't got them, I suppose that's everywhere, even Liverpool with (Virgil) van Dijk missing.

“You don't think it would have that sort of effect but we have missed these lads. Now the opportunity comes (for others) – we've got games coming thick and fast coming up now.

“They're still a decent group and when you're a manager it's how you get out of bad runs, not how you do when you're top of the league and you're flying. That's what you get paid for, to get the results back on the road.

“If it was the last game of the season I think Dael would play, Tav maybe Reading or Bristol City.”

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Mendez-Laing, who joined on transfer deadline day at the start of the month, was playing his first senior football since last season's Championship play-offs, having been released by Cardiff City and banned for cocaine use. The 28-year-old winger's return was hard work for him, but has lifted his manager's mood.

“I came in on Sunday to see Dael and Tav, and Mendez came in voluntarily,” said Warnock.

“He was stiff as a bone after 30 minutes (of football). When you've not played for a long time it's amazing. Even when you think you're fit, at that level when you're on the pitch there's nothing quite like it. It will have done him the world of good.

“He really had to loosen up but he should be all right now.

“It was good to see him in, I must admit.”

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