Middlesbrough’s Curtis Main set for cup start

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MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray looks set to throw the Main man into Wednesday’s FA Cup derby against Sunderland at the Riverside.

Mowbray says injury-ravaged Boro are down to the “bare bones” of their squad ahead of the game – which could signal an appearance for Curtis Main.

The teenage former Darlington striker played the final 40 minutes of Saturday’s goalless draw with Crystal Palace after replacing Marvin Emnes.

Mowbray hinted he is likely to pull Boro’s leading scorer out of the firing line given the Dutch ace is struggling with a hamstring problem.

It means there could be a chance for Main, who joined Boro at the end of last season after leaving Darlington.

“At half-time it was touch-and-go whether Marvin came off, but we gave him five minutes, ” said Mowbray. “There is a fear that if we keep persevering with him that we could lose him for six to eight weeks.

“I think the time has come for Curtis Main, who is scoring goals quite freely for the development team, to get on the pitch.”

Mowbray admits it is something of a gamble, but desperate times call for desperate measures and the 19-year-old could get a starting role against Martin O’Neill’s in-form Black Cats on Wednesday.

“I have told him he will find it a lot tougher. The defenders he’ll be coming up against here will be tougher, faster and cleverer, ” Mowbray said.

“Sometimes you have to throw them into the sea to see if they can swim. Curtis has got the physical attributes – he’s got the power and he’s got the pace.”

The injury to Emnes is just the latest in a catalogue of woe for Mowbray. Midfielder Nicky Bailey (knee), striker Scott McDonald (knee) and Stadium of Light goalscorer Barry Robson (hand) all missed the draw with Palace and face a lengthy absence.

Faris Haroun joined them on the sidelines when he limped off just seven minutes at the Riverside with a hamstring strain.

“Faris has played in two difficult away games over the last week and it’s taken its toll I think,” said Mowbray.

“We got him off straight away so hopefully it will be a grade one rather than a two or three when a player could be out for a couple of months.”

Boro goalkeeper Jason Steele had to make several fine saves to ensure his side claimed a hard-earned point.

Steele saved from former Hartlepool striker Jermaine Easter and then scrambled the ball around the post from Chris Martin’s 25-yard drive.

As in the first half, after a sluggish start the Eagles started to warm to their task and Steele had to be at his best to keep out strikes from Zaha and Martin from the edge of the box.

The visitors also thought they had been awarded a penalty when Joe Bennett hauled down Wilfred Zaha on the right but referee Mark Heywood adjudged the foul to have taken place outside the area.

Steele was called into action to deny Easter before Darren Ambrose fired over the rebound from just outside the area.

Palace were nearly made to rue their profligacy as Lukas Jutkiewicz’s strike from Justin Hoyte’s cross threatened to win it at the death but Julian Visiting keeper Julian Speroni did well to deny the former Coventry striker and ensure the spoils were shared.

Middlesbrough: Steele, McMahon (Smallwood 84), Bates, Hines, Hoyte, Haroun (Martin 8), Thomson, Rhys Williams, Bennett, Emnes (Main 50), Jutkiewicz. Subs Not Used: Ripley, McManus. Booked: McMahon.

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Clyne, Gardner, McCarthy, Parr, Zaha, Jedinak, Dikgacoi, Ambrose (Scannell 81), Martin, Easter. Subs Not Used: Price, Garvan, Murray, McShane. Booked: Dikgacoi.

Att: 15, 725 Ref: Mark Heywood (Cheshire).