Patrick Roberts pushing for a start against Millwall as Neil Warnock discusses Middlesbrough selection dilemmas

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Neil Warnock says Patrick Roberts has improved in training this week and hopes the playmaker can force his way into Middlesbrough’s starting XI.

The 23-year-old impressed at Boro last season but has started just three games since returning to the Riverside for a second loan spell from Manchester City.

When asked about Roberts ahead of this weekend’s game against Millwall, Warnock said: “In fairness to Patrick, he’s trained very well this week and I’ve been pleased with him.

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“That’s the first time for a while he’s caught my eye in that respect.

Middlesbrough's Patrick Roberts in action against Derby's Wayne Rooney.Middlesbrough's Patrick Roberts in action against Derby's Wayne Rooney.
Middlesbrough's Patrick Roberts in action against Derby's Wayne Rooney.

“Hopefully now the penny has dropped now that he’s got to work hard to get into the team and then stay in the team.”

Warnock also has a decision to make about how his team set up in midfield, after Jonny Howson was ruled out for two to four weeks with a hamstring injury.

Howson started alongside Sam Morsy and George Saville in midfield against Stoke and Preston, but Warnock is looking for a better balance which enables his side to score more goals.

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“You have to strike a balance – but that’s not just now with Jonny Howson being out, it applies when he’s here as well,” said Warnock when asked about his midfield selection.

“You have to look at the balance of the opponents and the strengths of the opponents as well, then you have to look at your own squad and try to get a system with what you’ve got to try to get results.

"We’ve got to try to get results in other ways because we’re not scoring from set-pieces, and we don’t look like scoring.

"It’s no good kidding ourselves – we don’t look like scoring from set-pieces even though we’ve got one of the best free-kick takers in the league.

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Warnock will also have to decide whether to go with a back four or a back three against Millwall, which may be dependent on Anfernee Dijksteel’s availability as the defender prepares for a late fitness test.

“It’s all about the opposition really,” added Warnock when asked about playing with a back three.

“I don’t like a back three when the opponents play one up front and we’ve got three against one.”

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