Seb Hines returns for Middlesbrough to help ease the injury burden

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SEB Hines is set to cushion the blow of losing skipper Matthew Bates by declaring himself fit for tomorrow’s trip to Brighton and Hove Albion.

Middlesbrough remain tight lipped on the situation regarding Bates, but the fear is that he has suffered a fifth cruciate ligament injury of his career.

He picked up the fresh problem during Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Ipswich Town, a game which also saw Hines substituted at half-time having suffered a head injury.

That led to Tony Mowbray recalling Stephen McManus from his loan spell at Bristol City, and it now looks as if he’ll partner Hines at the heart of the defence for the trip to the Amex Stadium.

“I think Seb has a better-than-average chance of making it,” Mowbray explained.

“He didn’t train on Thursday, but having spoken to him I’m pretty sure he’ll be on that plane to Brighton.”

And, of Bates, he added: “He’s had a scan on his knee and taken it to London to get an assessment from a specialist on Friday.

“Until the specialist has looked at it it’s not right for us to make any comment other than to say it’s disappointing for Matthew that he won’t be able to play in the next game for us.

“We’ll probably have more to say next week.”

Versatile Australia star Rhys Williams is already ruled out with an ankle ligament problem and is currently wearing a cast.

That is another reason that McManus has been brought in from the cold.

“Stephen knows what’s what in football and is very professional about how he goes about his job,” said Mowbray.

“His only question was whether he was coming back to play or to sit on the bench.

“I’m sure after getting some games under his belt in the last few weeks, he’ll come back and do a good job.”

Meanwhile, striker Scott McDonald will also travel with the squad to Brighton after recovering earlier than expected from a medial ligament injury suffered in the FA Cup fourth round tie at Sunderland in January.

“He trained on Thursday and looked very, very sharp and yet he’s been out for a few months now,” said Mowbray.