6:00am Saturday 1st February 2014
By Paul Fraser
AITOR KARANKA is satisfied that Middlesbrough have the defensive options to cope without the injured Rhys Williams in the final few months of the season.
Karanka was happy to allow the transfer window to close last night without bringing in extra defensive cover to fill the hole left by Williams.
Even though the Australian defender has been ruled out for the rest of the campaign after specialists indicated he required surgery on an Achilles problem, Boro did not consider bringing a replacement in yesterday.
Karanka did, however, put the blocks on Seb Hines’ proposed move to Birmingham City and he is likely to hand Kenneth Omeruo his full debut at Doncaster this afternoon.
Omeruo has not started a game since arriving on loan from Chelsea but, with Jonathan Woodgate not due to return to training until Tuesday, the Nigerian will have a chance today.
“We have a lot of players who can play there and Kenneth is ready to play,” said Karanka, who could also field Ben Gibson at the back. “Seb is not playing at this moment but he has been ready and he has experience. I am happy with them.
“We didn’t want another defender to come in, we are not looking. We are satisfied with what we have got.”
Had Middlesbrough drafted in another loan signing then it would have impacted on what they were trying to add further up the pitch. Rules state clubs are only allowed include five loan signings in their match-day squad.
That is why Middlesbrough pushed through a £300,000 deal for Daniel Ayala last week from Norwich City. Ayala is likely to keep his place today with Omeruo alongside him.
Then Gibson, Woodgate and Hines will provide alternative options, even though Williams has had his World Cup dream shattered.
Whatever team he fields, Karanka is satisfied he has the defenders capable of keeping Middlesbrough in the promotion mix – even if he spent yesterday hoping for an attacking addition.
“We have been working on the pitch every day in the office until the last seconds, this week is hard because of what happened to Rhys,” said Karanka.
“We have had this week with the players and we are now focused on winning this game for Rhys.”
Doncaster have claimed seven points from their last three games to give their fight for Championship survival a lift.
Karanka, whose side have lost just one in seven themselves despite defeat at Leicester a week ago, said: “It will be another difficult game. They have been improving and it’s been difficult for us. It will be difficult because they are in a good period. They have confidence.
“We are not at our best at the moment but we need to just focus on three points and not think about them.
“They have been playing better in the last few games. They are in the position we were in no too long ago. We need to go and win a game, though, forget about them.
“I was not happy with the style of play on Tuesday against Wigan, we lost our intensity and lost our passing style. We need to recover our style. We lost our style because we had too many players in training for a few weeks, but that should improve now.”
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