Attacking solutions and full-back dilemmas: FIVE things Middlesbrough fans should look out for at Hartlepool
Middlesbrough face a pre-season trip to Hartlepool on Sunday afternoon – but what should Boro fans expect? Here are five things to look out for at the Super 6 Stadium:
Will Martin Braithwaite return? – The Danish international missed Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Gateshead with a thigh injury, yet Woodgate said he should be ok.
At the start of the summer it seemed unlikely Braithwaite would stay at the Riverside following the forward’s transfer request and criticism of former manager Tony Pulis.
But it seems like Braithwaite has been given a second chance under Woodgate, who will be keen to fit the striker into his side during pre-season.
Where will Boro’s creativity come from? – Against Gateshead, Boro struggled to break their opponents down when the hosts sat deep and piled men behind the ball.
Woodgate admitted after the game it’s his job to find a solution – but where could Boro’s creative spark come from?
Whether it’s through some quick build-up play in midfield or pace and power out wide, Boro must find more ways to breach the opposition’s backline.
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Can Patrick Reading keep it up? – Due to an injury to George Friend, the 20-year-old left-back has started Boro’s opening two pre-season friendlies and particularly impressed against Gateshead.
There’s a strong possibility Woodgate will rotate his side to face Pools, yet Reading will be keen to keep the momentum going.
Will Jonny Howson start at right-back again? – On the other side of defence Howson was brought into the side’s backline, highlighting Boro’s lack of options in that area.
After starting Boro’s friendly against Grazer AK, 18-year-old Djed Spence is another option for Woodgate at right-back while the more experienced Ryan Shotton operated there last season.
Who will start in the holding midfield role? – Woodgate said after the Gateshead game that he wants his side to play in a 4-3-3 set-up with one midfielder dropping deep.
The most likely option appears to be Adam Clayton, who impressed in the second half against the Heed, although Lewis Wing also looked sharp at the base of Boro’s midfield on Wednesday.