Hines to push claims in Carlisle friendly
SEB Hines will push his claims for an opening-day starting spot when Middlesbrough play their penultimate pre-season friendly at Carlisle United this evening. Hines missed the final five games of last season after suffering a horror injury against Ipswich Town that left his jaw fractured in two places. The 23-year-old was omitted from the squad that travelled to Slovenia for a three-game tour earlier this month, but featured in last week's reserves win over Harrogate Town and was a second-half substitute in Saturday's 4-2 defeat at Darlington. He is expected to start alongside skipper Matthew Bates as Boro visit Brunton Park tonight, with Tony Mowbray still assessing his options ahead of next month's opening Championship fixture with Portsmouth. Stephen McManus and Rhys Williams are also available at centre-half, but having performed strongly prior to his injury in April, Hines is hoping to reclaim a place in the first team. I want to get my place in the team again, said the defender. I want to get back to the level I was at, and I'm confident I can forget about the injury. It came at the wrong time. No time is a good time to be injured, but I was having a good run in the team after waiting for my chance to show what I could do. It came at the worst possible moment, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'm just looking forward to this season now. I played at Harrogate and that was my first game for a test of my jaw, then got half an hour at Darlington. I hope to be involved at Carlisle again to build my fitness up. Despite making his senior debut in January 2007, Hines has accumulated just 20 senior starts for the Teessiders. Fourteen of them came last season, with the Yorkshireman impressing as injuries limited Mowbray's options in the second half of the campaign. His form alerted a number of prospective suitors, and Premier League Bolton Wanderers were credited with a strong interest in his services earlier this summer. A deal now looks unlikely, with Bolton boss Owen Coyle poised to sign Burnley defender Tyrone Mears instead, but Hines insists he paid little attention to reports linking him with a move away from the Riverside anyway. Instead, he focused his attention on completing his recovery from the gruesome jaw injury that resulted from a seemingly innocuous collision with Joe Bennett. It's good to have teams interested in you from just playing a third of a season like I did last year, said Hines. But I'm just focused on my football and I don't let things like that affect me. I've had a lot of time to think about the injury, but I'm over it now. It was one of the worst injuries I've ever had, probably the worst. Everyone says it must have been painful, and it was. But I was knocked a bit unconscious and it took a while to realise things didn't feel right. The doctor told me I had broken my jaw, and at first I didn't believe him. Mowbray has chopped and changed his selections throughout pre-season, and tonight's starting line-up is likely to include a number of players who did not start Saturday's game with Darlington. Bennett and Justin Hoyte are likely to feature in the back four, with Richie Smallwood and summer signing Malaury Martin expected to be involved in the midfield. Luke Williams will also feature, with Australia international Scott McDonald set to start up front.
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