Middlesbrough buoyant for Portsmouth trip

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TONY Mowbray says that his side are in buoyant mood ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Portsmouth after their come-from-behind midweek success over Derby County.

The 2-1 win has seen Boro move six points clear of Scunthorpe, who occupy the last relegation spot, and another maximum return against in-form Portsmouth could see them climb as high as 17th.

On-loan goalkeeper Paul Smith, who made his debut against the Rams despite only arriving on Teesside on the morning of the game, is set to keep his place in between the sticks.

And Mowbray has been impressed with the Nottingham Forest stopper: “It’s something we’ve been looking into since Saturday and I’m thrilled with his arrival.

“We worked on the deal until 10 o’clock Monday night and credit to the big lad, he got up very early Tuesday morning to come down and push the deal through and he is really keen to be here, so the deal proves beneficial for both clubs.”

Boro have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the trip to the south coast with Joe Bennett expected to recover from a sprained wrist.

Mowbray has also been boosted by the return of club captain Stephen McManus, who has been out of action since damaging his ankle ligaments against Crystal Palace in November.

The Scot is unlikely to start but should take his place among the substitutes.

Rhys Williams will again partner Seb Hines, scorer of the equalising goal against Derby, in the heart of the defence after an impressive display on Tuesday.

Richie Smallwood, meanwhile, could lose his place to Merouane Zemmama after the Moroccan came from the bench to score the late winner against Nigel Clough’s side.

Portsmouth have been in good form of late but Bristol City ended their six-match winning run on Tuesday, inflicting a 2-1 reverse at Ashton Gate.

H Mikael Tavares has been told he can return to Hamburg in the summer as Mowbray continues his remodelling of the Middlesbrough squad.

Mowbray needs to half the club’s £20m wage bill on players.

Boro will not take up the option on midfielder Tavares, while Julio Arca – the club’s top earner – is almost certain to leave.

Midfielder Willo Flood will not be offered a new deal either, and Mowbray will also look to move on several other players on high wages – the likes of Scott McDonald, Barry Robson, Kevin Thomson and Stephen McManus.