Fitness fight for important Reds pair

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STEPHEN Foster and Luke Steele are facing a race against time to fit for tonight’s Championship home clash with Middlesbrough.

Centre-back Foster and first-choice keeper Steele both missed Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Southampton through illness and injury respectively. Foster was absent due to a mystery bug and has had diarrhoea for the last few days, while shot-stopper Steele missed out because of a knee swelling caused through over-stretching.

“We’ve just got to wait and see whether they’ll be fit to play,” Reds boss Keith Hill told The Star. “They’re both probably but not definite, we’ll give them as long as possible to prove their fitness.

“Fozzie is trying to get some fluids on board to re-energise and with Steeley it’s a case of seeing whether the swelling goes down in time to see if he’ll play.”

Portuguese striker Ricardo Vaz Te is definitely out and faces a real challenge to be fit for Saturday’s away clash with Reading. The former Bolton hitman featured as a late substitute at the weekend but during his 16 minutes of action picked up a bad thigh strain which could see him out of action for at least a week.

Hill said: “Ricardo’s definitely going to miss out, which is a shame because when he came on he made a good impression and could have scored. It’s a shame but I’ve got other options and when players are injured it gives other players in the squad the chance to come in and do well. I’m not afraid of using any players in the squad, I’ve got faith in all of the players.

“Saturday was disappointing, but the players know what I’m expecting and it’s important we bounce back against Middlesbrough.

“They’re a strong side and they have plenty of threats. They’ve started the season well and we expect a tough game. I’ve got great respect for Tony Mowbray as a manager, he’s come in and done it his way at Middlesbrough and had the resources to turn things around there. He gets his team’s to play football the right way.

“But we’re not scared of the challenge. As a manager I don’t fear anyone. If we play well individually and collectively I know what we’re capable of at this club.”

Dutch striker Marvin Emnes has bagged five goals in three games so far, while Australian forward Scott McDonald has an eye for goal.

“They’ve [Middlesbrough] got strength all over the pitch, but we’ll be ready,” said Hill. “I really surprised with our defeat on Saturday because I’d not seen evidence of a performance like that coming because we were strong in pre-season and played well against Nottingham Forest on the season’s opening weekend