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Striker won't be risked - Mowbray.

Byline: Neil Cameron ? (0191) 201-6113 ? neil.cameron@ncjmedia.co.uk

TONY Mowbray won't be tempted to rush top scorer Scott McDonald back into the Middlesbrough team tomorrow because he's fielded far too many injured players this season.

The past two months have been all about forcing square pegs into round holes for Mowbray given his major selection problems.

It's been a far from perfect solution. Six defeats from the last seven Championship games prove that. Mowbray's hand has been forced in recent week and he's had to turn to players who should have been nowhere near his starting eleven.

McDonald, who has 13 goals to his name, is back in training after a month out and the team desperately need his goals.

But the manager won't risk the Australian against Millwall tomorrow.

Mowbray said: "Scott trained today, but he's been out for about four weeks.

"I spoke last week about the reasons why we've been on the run we're on and I think maybe the temptation to put injured players straight back into the team is something to think about.

"The likes of Rhys Williams, Lukas Jutkiewicz and George Friend were out for at least a month if not more, but came back and were playing in the team when they maybe haven't been at full tilt.

"You add all them up and it can tip the balance in tight football matches.

"I am trying to resist the temptation to put Scott straight back in and try to ease the players back in amongst the training and some game time, generally from the bench.

"You probably can't afford to carry three or four that are a bit below par."

The Middlesbrough first-team squad have never been able to claim a clean bill of health even when things were going well.

The difference then was that Mowbray could replace an injured player with a fit player who was ready and desperate to help out.

Mowbray said: "We are now in a cycle where the players unavailable through injury are being replaced by ones coming back from injuries, and they maybe are not quite right to be put back in the team.

"But the temptation has been to put him straight back in and fill the hole that's just been created by an injury."

On paper, this will sound like an excuse for the bad run of results.

However, Mowbray in person does get across the message that he is giving reasons and nothing else for what so far has been a dreadful 2013.

But he's far from downhearted. The nature of the Championship is that two or three wins can make a huge difference and that's what the Boro boss will be looking for against Millwall at the Riverside.

The Londoners are a typical Championship side in that you never know how they will play - good, bad, or downright dreadful - as illustrated by their midweek 5-1 home defeat to struggling Peterborough.

For Middlesbrough, a 0-0 draw at Burnley could hardly be described as a turning point, but it was a point on the road and a much-needed clean sheet.

Mowbray said: "I don't want to sit here and make excuses for our run of results.

"Hopefully we'll turn the corner. A draw the other night can help to amend the away form. We did win our last home game (against Leeds united) and so we are very right to go into Millwall believing we're going to hit winning form, and yet they're never easy.

"They are all tough games and Millwall will want to react after a 5-1 defeat, so let's wait and see.

"We're aware of the pack behind us and we're aware of the points gap in front of us.

"If we can find some consistency we can close that very quickly."

The temptation has been to put him straight back in and fill the hole that's just been created by an injury

CAPTION(S):

NO RUSH Tony Mowbray won't bring Scott McDonald back too early
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 22, 2013
Words:667
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