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Boro are ready to face an 'air raid' GARETH Southgate has warned his Middlesbrough defenders to expect sore heads if they are to deal with the threat of Stoke at the Riverside Stadium today, writes JACK PICKERING.

Byline: JACK PICKERING

Boro boss Southgate's back line have spent much of the week on the training ground gaining valuable heading practice ready for the anticipated flow of long balls into the penalty area from the Potters.

Southgate deployed one of his junior players to send a series of long throw-ins into the penalty area, in preparation for the long balls which will arrive from Stoke's long throw-in specialist, former Sunderland midfielder Rory Delap.

Southgate said: "We know that Stoke like to get the ball into the box quickly and try to cause you problems by doing it, so we have to defend well if we want to win the game.

"Bolton defended well against the same threat on the opening day, but Stoke beat Villa last week and so they will be lifted by that.

"They got 12 long throw-ins into the box in both games, but then we had to deal with 14 corners at Liverpool, and we dealt with them well.

"We are organised and we have defenders who enjoy heading the ball, but we have been working in training on what we can expect tomorrow.

"I've had one of the young lads taking long throw-ins. But he couldn't throw it far enough from the touch line, so we had a bring him in a few yards so he could get the ball into the box!"

While Southgate has prepared for the threat that Stoke will pose, the Boro manager admits that the onus still rests with his players.

The Teessiders have started the season well, winning both home games against Spurs on the opening day and against Yeovil in the Carling Cup, and Southgate is determined to try to develop a winning mentality at the Riverside.

He said: "As the home team we have to impose ourselves on the game. Of course we have to prepare for Stoke's threat in the final third, but we have players who love playing with the ball and we have to do what we do best tomorrow.

"We have created chances in all our games so far. We have won our home games and we consider ourselves unfortunate to lose at Liverpool.

"We have to carry on what we have been doing because we want to make the Riverside a fortress. This is our patch and we want to make it difficult for teams who come here."

Southgate has received good news on the player front with defenders David Wheater and Andrew Taylor recovering from knocks at Liverpool.

But keeper Brad Jones, who dislocated a finger in the warm-up at Anfield, will not be risked against Stoke so Ross Turnbull is expected to carry on in goal.

CAPTION(S):

SETTLING IN Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate, top, with two of his new signings - Didier Digard, centre, and Marvin Emnes.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 30, 2008
Words:468
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