SIMON GRAYSON believes Huddersfield Town will give Middlesbrough a real game tonight – with or without Keith Southern.
The manager doesn’t expect to discover the outcome of his appeal against the midfielder’s red card at Charlton until this afternoon.
As a result he has drawn up two plans for the Championship clash at the Riverside Stadium, where 10th-placed Town will certainly be without Adam Clayton, but will have Chris Atkinson available after his return from a loan stint at Chesterfield.
Clayton will sit out the meeting with Tony Mowbray’s fourth-placed side after picking up a fifth caution of the campaign in Saturday’s 1-1 draw.
The fact that Town played 55 minutes of that match with only 10 men will also come into Grayson’s thinking as he plots a fifth away win of the season.
Of his injured trio, Sean Scannell seems the most likely to be available after good progress in his recovery from a hamstring problem.
“Sean was pretty close to making Saturday’s game, and Jermaine Beckford (hamstring) and James Vaughan (thigh) are also heading in the right direction,” explained Grayson.
“It was a tough game at Charlton, particularly after the red card, because the players did a lot of running to maintain the shape of the side.
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“Yesterday’s session was mainly aimed at recovery and the tactical plans for tonight, and the players who get the nod will be ready to go again.”
Midfielders Scott Arfield, who came on as a substitute at Charlton, and Anton Robinson are both on stand-by for Town’s first meeting with Middlesbrough since the 1997-98 season.
Atkinson will also hope for a chance after impressing in League II – he scored five goals in 16 outings for the Spireites – especially if the Football Association uphold Southern’s sending off.
That would mean a three-match ban for the former Blackpool player, keeping him out on Teesside tonight, at home to Leeds in Saturday’s big derby, and against Bolton back at the John Smith’s Stadium seven days after that.
“We don’t believe Keith should have been sent off and we’ve put together as solid a case as we can, but you can never be sure of the outcome,” said Grayson. “I want him to be available, because he is a very good, experienced player, but if he isn’t, we’ll get on with it.”