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Mowbray forced to turn to the kids in cup tie
TONY MOWBRAY wants depleted Middlesbrough to prove they can cope with a horrendous injury-list when the lowest ranked team left in the FA Cup head for the Riverside Stadium tomorrow.
Boro have a staggering 14 members of their first team squad unavailable for the visit of Ryman Isthmian League club Hastings in the third round.
It is a situation which has forced Mowbray to put a number of the club's promising teenagers on stand-by for the first time, including 18-year-old Andre Bennett and England Under-16s captain Bryn Morris.
The Middlesbrough manager remains confident a number of his absentees will be fit again before next Saturday's visit of Watford, but in the mean time he has an unfamiliar team to select.
The only possible return from the extensive list is Faris Haroun, who trained for the first time yesterday after calf trouble but he is only likely to make the bench - at best.
"Basically we have had to register a few young lads who have not got a number because we haven't got a squad to fill 18 spots in the squad," admitted Mowbray.
"We already had two young lads in the 18 so we will have another two or three this Saturday. We might have a young bench but with respect to Hastings we are 131 places above them in the football pyramid, so hopefully we can still go through.
"The two that were on the bench at Derby last Saturday - Paul Weldon and Christian Burgess - will be involved. We are toying with the others. I have got another three or four being registered. "Potentially Jordan Jones, Andre Bennett, just young lads, potentially Bryn Morris, who is only 16, could all be in there. Bryn only left school a few months ago. That's where we are."
The situation is exacerbated by the fact a number of the Under-21 squad are already out on loan. Midfielder Matty Dolan is on the verge of a loan move to Yeovil, striker Charlie Wyke is with Hartlepool and defender Ben Gibson has picked up an injury during his loan at Tranmere.
Mowbray said: "We have to dig deep in to resources for this game. If that means an opportunity for a kid who is two or three years away from our first team then so be it."
The extent of the injury problems being suffered at the club's Rockliffe Park training headquarters will not alter the manager's thinking in the transfer market this month. He is not, though, completely ruling out a new arrival if a player ticks all the boxes.
"If I think there's a player out there who could make a difference then I will do that, I think. But there's nothing sitting there in front of us at the moment," said Mowbray.
"I'm not sat here desperately trying to put deals together. It's not the right time unless we want to add a specific player in a specific area who can really make a difference and push us on.
"Sometimes those players fall in to your lap, so I am not on the phone every minute trying to crow bar somebody out of a club. But I don't think we will be adding to it."
And he admitted Middlesbrough's hopes of bringing Stewart Downing back to the Riverside on loan this month are fading. The Liverpool winger has been back in the thick of things under Brendan Rodgers at Anfield, where Downing had been told he could leave in the new year.
Mowbray said: "Stewart had one or two things to say while he was out of the team. From my point of view there was never anything in that. Stewart Downing is an international footballer and now he is back in the Liverpool team, doing really well."
Hastings have already travelled up to the North-East ahead of tomorrow's game and have a major injury concern of their own.
Manager Sean Ray fears goalkeeper Matt Armstrong-Ford, who has been struggling with a persistent knee problem, will miss out and he has been asking Newcastle United for help.
Ray said: "We've actually been speaking to Newcastle this week about getting Jak Alnwick in on loan in time for the game. Nothing is confirmed yet but we're hopeful of sorting it."