Middlesbrough defender Dael Fry is set to return to the first-team squad after injury for this weekend’s Championship fixture against Millwall at the Riverside Stadium.
The Hartlepool Mail reported that the 21-year-old could return to action after missing four months out injured, but Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate also gave worrying updates on the fitness of other defenders in the squad.
He told the Hartlepool Mail that Hayden Coulson will definitely miss the weekend’s clash against the Lions and added that George Friend is “touch and go” as to his availability after suffering a recurrence of a recent thigh injury against Wigan in midweek.
Fry’s 2018/19 came to a premature end last April when he tore his hamstring in training for ‘Boro, as reported by Teesside Live, and he has not played for the first team since that unfortunate incident.
He made a tentative return to action for Middlesbrough’s under-23 side last week, playing for an hour in their 0-2 defeat to Stoke.
He was a regular presence in the ‘Boro defence last season, playing in 34 Championship games and 39 in all competitions, but now he faces the challenge of displacing one of the established centre-back pairing of Daniel Ayala and Ryan Shotton, who have both started all four of their league matches so far in 2019/20.
Fry has a strong presence in the air, having won 3.6 aerial duels per game last season, while his match averages 0.5 dribbles and 0.4 key passes suggest that he is comfortable with the ball at his feet, but a passing success rate of 69.4% in 2018/19 is concerning.
Shotton has won 2.8 aerial duels per game so far this season, which is less than Fry’s 2018/19 average, but both of those pale in comparison with Ayala’s five per game from the early weeks of this campaign.
Both Shotton and Ayala have posted superior passing accuracy rates to Fry, with 78.2% and 73.3% respectively, while they have both had more interceptions per game this season (Shotton 2.5, Ayala 1.5) than Fry’s 0.7 per game in 2018/19.
Both Shotton and Ayala were culpable of slack passing against Wigan on Tuesday night, as noted by Joe Nicholson in the Hartlepool Mail, but Teesside Live‘s Dominic Shaw pointed out that they both stood firm against a bombardment of high balls into their penalty area in that game.
With Fry being out of first-team action since April and posting inferior passing success and interception statistics to his central defensive team-mates, Woodgate could ease him back into the picture with a place on the bench tomorrow after the ‘Boro defence kept Wigan at bay in midweek.
Middlesbrough fans, how big a boost is it to have Fry coming back to the squad? Can you see him playing against Millwall? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below!Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!