Date: 18th December 2015 at 6:48pm
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Manager Chris Hughton has previewed the game against Middlesbrough this weekend, and given his usual team news update.

Speaking to the Official Site in his pre game press conference, Hughton also praised the team’s ability to pick up points despite dealing with a number of injuries at this moment in time.

‘From Tuesday`s game we`re fine. Lewis Dunk misses the game through suspension, but with regards to injuries, no fresh ones. Sam Baldock and Kazenga LuaLua both return to training next week. It`s a massive plus for us to have Andrew Crofts back. He came through a good period for us this season and then picked up a slight injury that set him back a little bit. It`s certainly good to have someone of his quality and experience back in the squad.’

With a ten point gap on seventh place, Hughton went on to say that this was important for the club given our promotion hopes because whilst nobody knows if we’ll be in the automatic mix come May, having wriggle room on the Play Off sports gives a secondary opportunity – which was in fact the opening target of the year.

‘The gap is important to our season. From our point of view, we embarked on this campaign wanting to challenge for the play-offs. The position where we finished last season meant it was essential that we put ourselves in a place where we could do well enough to challenge for the top six and be competitive. What we`ve managed to do is better than that. We`ve deserved it and have been competitive enough all season, but it`s a vital period and we`ve come through two very tough away games. These next three games would have a say in whether we manage to stay in that top group of teams.’

He went on to say that obviously the table doesn’t lie, especially after this number of games now, so it’s about maintaining focus and hopefully keeping this run going for as long as we can because the Championship is hugely competitive at this moment in time.

‘The league table doesn`t lie and the top group of teams are very good and very competitive. What we have faced are teams that have been at the top end season after season. Derby were very close the season before, but just fell away a little bit towards the end. We know where QPR were last season and Middlesbrough got to the play-off final. It almost seems that the very next game appears to be our biggest test of the season. I probably see this as no different. Middlesbrough are up there because of the quality they have got, the way they have recruited in the summer and where they were last season. I think this will be our toughest test.’

He ended his interview talking about his pleasure at how the squad was dealing with the injury blows we’ve taken of late.

‘One thing I have mentioned in my programme notes is that we`ve had five players out injured, who were all regulars in the team. The results we`ve managed to get since then shows how much and desire and competition within the squad, because there hasn`t been too much change with what we`ve seen on the pitch. I think that`s down to a real desire from the team to want to do well. At the minute, it`s a testament to the players because they`ve dealt with it well.’

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