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While Chris Wilder will probably still be stunned that his Middlesbrough side have dropped outside of the playoffs by such a margin, he will recongise that there is no time to dwell on their recent disappointments.
That appeared to be the case as Boro impressively made light work of Cardiff City on Wednesday evening, goals from Marcus Tavernier and Riley McGree ending a five-match winless streak.
That result has moved Boro back to within two points of sixth-placed Sheffield United, who still have Fulham to come on the final day of the campaign, and Wilder will be optimistic that two more wins will get them over the line.
Nevertheless, Wilder is still struggling to get a tune out of his forwards, McGree netting two of the team’s recent three goals after only being drafted into the side as a replacement for the suspended Matt Crooks.
Whether that alters Wilder’s thinking ahead of this contest remains to be seen, but the January arrival has effectively made himself undroppable after stepping up to the plate when his side were on the brink of becoming one of the also-rans in the promotion race.
The argument will be that the resurgence has only come with this group of players competing with less pressure and expectation on their shoulders, but it has left the powers-that-be with plenty of justification if they make the decision to retain the former Northern Ireland manager.
Most impressively during their recent run, Stoke have conceded just four goals in seven games, keeping four clean sheets in the process, and it has ensured that the goals of Jacob Brown have proven more decisive.
The forward has scored in four of their recent victories, taking his tally for the campaign to 13 from 43 league appearances.
While Crooks will return to the Middlesbrough squad for this game, it is unclear whether the midfielder will earn an immediate recall.
A three-day turnaround boosts his chances, as it does with the likes of Andraz Sporar and Aaron Connolly who will want to feature in attack.
Dael Fry is in line to make an appearance in the squad after a calf injury and becomes an option to replace Sol Bamba.
Barring any fitness issues, O’Neill may decide to stick with the Stoke XI which edged out Queens Park Rangers last time out.
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If there is to be a change, it could come between the sticks with Joe Bursik surprisingly being given the nod ahead of in-form goalkeeper Jack Bonham for that fixture.
Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Daniels; Dijksteel, Bamba, McNair; Jones, McGree, Howson, Tavernier, Bola; Balogun, Watmore
Stoke City possible starting lineup:
Bonham; Wilmot, Jagielka, Harwood-Bellis; Smith, Baker, Allen, Sawyers, Tymon; Brown, Maja