Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate will be without the instrumental Paddy McNair ahead of the congested Christmas fixture list – with the midfielder set to miss the next three games.
McNair has been a positive in quite a dismal season at the Riverside where Boro have spent most of their time in-and-around the bottom three.
The Irishman was shown a straight red card at Swansea at the weekend following a lunge.
Today the club’s appeal has been rejected by the FA meaning McNair will be missing for the next three fixtures – a dire blow in the busiest part of the season.
The midfielder will now miss out on two crucial relegation battles.
The Teeside outfit take on 22nd place Stoke City at the weekend before a trip to 19th place Huddersfield Town on Boxing day.
The absence of McNair could be the difference in the ties.
Woodgate did not believe the challenge warranted a red in an ill tempered game which also saw Boro’s Marcus Browne sent off.
Speaking after the Swansea game he said: “Paddy’s is not a red in my view, but no complaints over Marcus Browne’s.
“We’ll definitely be appealing Paddy’s, but not Marcus Browne’s, not a chance. Paddy McNair’s is a yellow card in my view.
“Browne was rash and ill-disciplined, it really was a horrific tackle.”
Woodgate will have to rethink his creative options without McNair, who is by far the most influential offensive midfielder at the club.
McNair has registered a forward passing accuracy of 66.1% in a team that is really struggling in front of goal this season.
Boro have the worst attacking record in the league, only registering 19 goals so far in 22 outings.
Woodgate’s men also face up against Championship high-flyers West Brom, a game the most hardcore fan would not expect to win.
Middlesbrough are currently sat in 20th, three points above a relegation zone.
Woodgate will be looking for a string of good results over Christmas to put some daylight between themselves and the trap door.