MIDDLESBROUGH will be without Jonathan Woodgate for tonight’s Capital One Cup Third Round trip to Preston North End.
The former Real Madrid centre-back, stand-in skipper for Friday’s 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers, picked up a slight hamstring strain at Ewood Park and will sit out of the return journey to the North West.
Boro entertain Leicester City in the Championship on Saturday when it is hoped Woodgate will be fit to feature, and boss Tony Mowbray believes the 32-year-old has made a real difference to his side.
“Jonathan and Andre Bikey were outstanding again at Blackburn,” said Mowbray.
“That was as good as we’ve seen Woodgate since we came back.
“When Woodgate’s at his best, I don’t think there are many strikers in this league can cause us a problem.”
And, of Woodgate’s injury, the Boro chief went on: “It isn’t too bad but he thought if he’d carried on it might have become more serious. Hopefully he’ll be okay for the weekend.
“We’ve just had three games in a week and I asked him about it before the first game and he was beaming and said he really felt decent and wanted to play all three games. That’s fantastic credit to him.”
Boro will also be without Adam Reach (ankle) at Deepdale, but midfielder Grant Leadbitter is fit having picked up a slight knock against Blackburn.
And Mowbray is hoping his players can feed off the positivity of that win over the league leaders.
“I said to the players after the game, how good it is to know you’ve given your lot, with your shirt soaked in sweat and to have won the match,” he said.
“It’s a great feeling and it’s what you dream about as a boy when you want to be a footballer. It’s six points in a week – we’d like to have seven or nine but we’ll take six most weeks.
“We’re happy to keep ticking along, this team is growing still and finding out the best way of playing with the players we’ve got.
“There are some tough choices for me who’s playing and who will be on the bench and we’re still trying to find the best way of playing them week in and week out.”