Williams in line to help ease Boro’s concerns

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TONY MOWBRAY is set to hand captain Rhys Williams his first start since August 28 today if his centre-half problems fail to ease.

The Australian international was thrust into the fray as a half-time substitute for the injured Andre Bikey in the 1-0 win over Blackburn on Boxing Day, with Boro’s boss admitting that in an ideal world he would have preferred to ease him back into the reckoning following a serious ankle injury.

Williams damaged ligaments in the Capital One Cup success at Gillingham early in the season, but Mowbray is likely to start him from the off if Bikey and Seb Hines miss out.

Boro, several of whose players have been struggling with flu in the past week or so, were forced to dig deep to see off Rovers and must do the same against bogey side Blackpool, yet to see their colours lowered in five games since the Teessiders’ return to the second tier.

Mowbray said: “It was great to see Rhys back as we are down to the bare bones at centre-half again. Woody (Jonathan Woodfgate) went down once in the second half against Blackburn and we were thinking we might have to move George Friend to centre-half and bring Andy Halliday on at left-back.

“But we got through it. But if Bikey and Seb are not going to make the Blackpool game, then it’s ‘welcome back, Rhys’.

“I had a long discussion before the Blackburn game about him even making the bench. But he managed to persuade me he was ready. In my mind, when I picked my squad, he was only on that teamsheet to gee him up and him think he was getting closer. But he showed everyone his concentration levels and mobility across the pitch against Blackburn.”