TONY MOWBRAY is quietly confident his side can remain unbeaten this weekend, even though something is going to have to give when Middlesbrough visit Crystal Palace (kick-off 3pm).
While Boro have yet to drop a point on the road this season, Palace have yet to lose in their own back yard – picking up seven points from three games at Selhurst Park.
Boro’s previous two journeys to face the Eagles in the capital have both ended in 1-0 defeats although Mowbray will be optimistic, given his side’s away form this season.
Last week’s 2-0 victory at Burnley was Boro’s fifth win from five on the road this season – stretching the club’s unbeaten run to 12 games in all competitions.
Mowbray said: “Crystal Palace are a strong side who have started brightly.
“Dougie Freedman has got them playing well at home but we’re playing well too.”
A boost for Mowbray is the return of midfield general Kevin Thomson who completed 70 minutes in the reserves’ 3-1 win against Blackpool last Tuesday.
It was the Scot’s second outing for the reserves in as many weeks after also completing 45 minutes against Scunthorpe.
Thomson has been out since June after he ruptured his ankle ligaments after stumbling off a treadmill – a freak injury which sums up his injury-plagued time on Teesside since arriving last season from Scottish champions Rangers.
Mowbray added: “Whenever Kevin is in the team, I am a lot more confident.”
Stephen McManus however is being assessed ahead of the game after the defender was involved in a collision with team-mate Rhys Williams in the opening stages of the win at Turf Moor.
Mowbray said: “We will see with Stephen, he took a knock to the knee but there is still time for him.
“He tried to continue but couldn’t run properly so there was no need to risk him when we had adequate cover on the bench.”
McManus was replaced by midfielder Faris Haroun, meaning Williams dropped back to partner captain Matthew Bated in the centre of defence.
Williams has struck up a fine partnership with Nicky Bailey and also Barry Robson whenever a three-man midfield has been preferred – something in which Mowbray is likely to use this weekend.