Can Woodgate come to Middlesbrough's rescue?

With Spanish defender Daniel Ayala replaced in the first half against Ipswich by the 35-year-old veteran, Woodgate's experience could prove vital in the promotion run-in.

Daniel Ayala's return from injury looked to be going perfectly with his fourth-minute header setting 'Boro off on the goal trail. Although Ipswich equalised a minute later, Aitor Karanka's men ran out comfortable 4-1 winners thanks to a brace from Patrick Bamford. But a 24th minute injury to Ayala saw Jonathan Woodgate enter the field for only his second appearance of the season.

Fears that Woodgate would be ring rusty after a largely inactive season were unfounded as he drew plaudits from the watching media and marshalled the dangerous Daryl Murphy heroically as he lead his hometown club to a much-needed victory.

Club captain Woodgate could now become a pivotal part of 'Boro's run-in, with Tomas Kalas moving to right-back and Ben Gibson remaining a solid component of the Teessiders' defence. Having been talked out of retirement last summer by Karanka, Woodgate claimed that helping 'Boro to promotion from the Sky Bet Championship would be his greatest achievement in the game. So what better motivation for the ex-Leeds United man than to see the club over the finishing line?

Middlesbrough lie in third place, but level on points with Watford who matched their 4-1 scoreline against Reading at Vicarage Road on Saturday. Goal difference is very likely to come into the equation, however, and the resounding win was a great start to a vital week for 'Boro who visit Derby's iPro Stadium on Tuesday night and Bournemouth's Goldsands Stadium next Saturday.

Karanka will be wrapping the famously injury-prone Woodgate in cotton wool this week if he plans to use the ex-England man in the vital promotion duels. Woodgate's only previous league outing this season was in February at Blackpool, in which he scored the decisive goal in a 2-1 win. Now Woodgate will be hoping to defy his injury record to fulfil his ultimate ambition.

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