Middlesbrough’s Joe Bennett is set to become a Villan

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MIDDLESBROUGH look like cashing in on young defender Joe Bennett, who is set to join Aston Villa in a deal worth around £3million.

Boro boss Tony Mowbray said, folllowing last night’s 2-0 Capital One Cup win at Gillingham, that there have been “conversations” with the Premier League strugglers, who are closing in on the England U21 left-back.

Villa boss Paul Lambert had said yesterday: “Hopefully something might happen. Has a bid gone in? Near enough.”

Reports suggest Boro have rejected an initial £2.5million offer for Bennett, who did not play last night, with George Friend again impressing at left-back.

Mowbray stopped short, just, of saying that Bennett was off to Villa, but admitted if Lambert made the right offer they would find it hard to turn down.

Mowbray said: “Joe is not a player we are in any rush to move on – he has done exceptionally well.

“Yet, like all our players, if the numbers get to the right valuation then we need to consider it.”

Boro’s success at Gillingham, courtesy of Mustapha Carayol and youngster Cameron Park, was marred by an ankle ligament injury sustained by skipper Rhys Williams. The problem has affected the 24-year-old in the past.

“Time will tell,” Mowbray said. “We’ll have a scan and see what it produces.”

Carayol bundled his way through before beating Stuart Nelson for the opener, with Park breaking clear to seal the win after 89 minutes.

Mowbray added: “They made a real game of it and had a real go by putting us under pressure, but we managed to see it out and late on we put the game to bed.”

Gillingham: Nelson, Fish (Strevens), Martin, Jackman (Dack), Davies, Barrett, Payne, Lee (Whelpdale), Allen, Kedwell, Burton. Subs: Forecast, Frampton, Whelpdale, Montrose, Dack, Strevens

Middlesbrough: Steele, Friend, McManus, Williams (Haroun), Hines, Halliday, Arca, Park, Smallwood, Emnes (Miller), Carayol (Zemmama). Subs: Ripley, Reach, Zemmama, Ledesma, Haroun, Williams, Miller

Ref: Ward Att: 5,146.