Exeter City v Middlesbrough: Matt Clarke set for first appearance for over a year for injury-hit Teessiders

Exeter City v MiddlesbroughMatt Clarke is set to make his first Middlesbrough appearance for over a year in Middlesbrough's League Cup fourth-round tie at Exeter City.

So Whilst Boro's lengthy injury list shows no sign of shortening, with manager Michael Clarke unwilling to say how long he expects Riley McGree to be out from, it could be a game which improves his options for the Championship matches ahead.

Clarke has been out with a back injury since the October 1 defeat at Coventry City so if he does make it onto the field it will be his first appearance for Carrick. Having been an unused substitute for the previous two matches, it looks likely.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"There's every chance he could feature," said Carrick. "We'll have to see how much and assess that but yeah, he's in and around the group.

INJURY PROBLEMS: Matt Clarke pictured playing against Boro in his Derby County daysINJURY PROBLEMS: Matt Clarke pictured playing against Boro in his Derby County days
INJURY PROBLEMS: Matt Clarke pictured playing against Boro in his Derby County days

"We are patient with him and there are steps to be taken but at the same point he has trained with us for a number of weeks now. He's part of the group."

Injuries played their part as Boro's seven-match winning run came to an end at Stoke City on Saturday, where the loss of McGree, Marcus Forss, Lewis O'Brien and Clarke's fellow defenders Darragh Lenihan and Tommy Smith.

Hayden Hackney was also missing due to suspension but is able to return at St James Park. None of the others are expected to.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"There's nothing new with injuries, that's the best way to put it,” said Carrick. “That's a positive. It's as we were."

Australian international McGree was in good form with five goals in 14 matches until he picked up a foot injury a month ago.

"He had a problem with his foot, a plantar fascia problem," revealed Carrick. "They're notoriously difficult ones to predict time-wise and it's taking it step by step and managing it as it comes. We're seeing how it goes day by day."

With Leeds United loanee Sam Greenwood also cup-tied, attacking midfielder Alex Gilbert will be hoping to press him claims against he League One strugglers after coming off the bench at the weekend.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The 21-year-old joined on a free transfer from Brentford in the summer but until the weekend his only run-out was as a substitute for McGree at Bradford City in the previous round.

"Everyone's got the opportunity," argued Carrick. "The squad's the squad and everyone is there for a reason and an important part of it in different ways

"It was good for Alex to get on the pitch, his first league game so it was a big step for him.

"We want him to be ready for the next chance, the next opportunity (and) keep working hard. Football's a funny old game, things turn around pretty quickly and that's the message to all the players."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A place in the quarter-finals is on offer for the winners – decided on the night – but Carrick is wary of thinking to much about that.

"You've got to be very careful with that, of over-emphasising the opportunity," he said. "It's the next game, it's important, we respect the game and the type of game it's going to be.

"We respect the opposition and what they've done to get here regardless of the stage of the competition.”