McDonald likely to wait for Plymouth
GORDON STRACHAN does not want to blame Scott McDonald's injury problems for hampering Middlesbrough's promotion push ahead of his most expensive signing's return over the Easter period. McDonald has recovered from a slight hamstring tear that prevented him from facing Watford last weekend and is likely to figure in one of Boro's two matches over the next three days. An outing at Plymouth on Monday is most likely, although his manager would not rule out an appearance against Crystal Palace today. His injury is the latest setback to the start of life at the Riverside Stadium. After arriving during his rehabilitation period following surgery on a hernia problem, he has missed five of Boro's 12 matches. But Strachan does not want to single out the Australian's absence as the sole reason for Middlesbrough's failure to climb back into the Championship's play-off places. There are lots of reasons why you don't do well and other people might turn them into excuses we're not doing that, said Strachan, with seven points separating his team from sixth-placed Leicester with six matches remaining. We can always sit down and talk about it. We can look at ourselves as coaches and then we'll look at players and the overall situation. We'll decide what we could have done better at the end of the season then get on with it. We can speculate had Jeremie Aliadiere been fit, had Emanuel Pogatetz been fit, had Willo Flood been fit. And Gary O'Neil has missed a lot of games. We've had a lot of people missing. Scott might have played and not scored a goal, so I don't know. I can only deal with what's happened. McDonald, whose only goal for the club arrived in the 2-2 draw with Newcastle on March 13, has looked promising when he has played but has lacked sharpness in front of goal. We hope to see him in at least one of the games at the weekend, said Strachan. It will be a big ask to see him play two games when he has had a hamstring injury. Since Christmas he has only played four or five games. He is a bit upset at missing so many games. McDonald was one of five recruits from Celtic in the January transfer window and Strachan has never been afraid to hide his admiration for the quintet's attitude. Only Stephen McManus, on loan for the remainder of the season, could find himself back at Parkhead following the departure of Tony Mowbray, and Strachan is just satisfied he landed his men before the sacking. I'm just delighted they're here. I can't tell you what went on there (at Celtic). I'm just happy they're here, said Strachan. They make the place more professional; there's more life about the place and they do set a standard in training that I hope everyone can come close to. With significant progress made in Strachan's attempts to put his own stamp on the squad, he has started to work on the pool of players he would like to have in pre-season. He recently admitted the close-season will be busy with players going in and out at the Riverside, but he has reiterated a desire to keep Austrian defender Pogatetz. He is unlikely to figure against Palace or Plymouth after sustaining a knock to the knee he had surgery on last year, but remains a target for Greek league leaders Panathinaikos. He is out of contract and free to leave in June. Strachan said: He's had a torrid season with injury and he is a big player for us. He has a great presence at the club. I think if you look at the games he has played, the ratio of wins and we've not been beaten is big when he's playing. I would like to keep him and he will get offered something but it is up to him whether he wants to stay here. But he likes it here. There hasn't been any contract discussions but there will be something.
Related Middlesbrough News