Albion midfielder Charlie Oatway is battling against a disguised injury in a bid to be a pain in the neck to Middlesbrough's Premiership stars.

Neck trouble forced Oatway off early in the second half of Saturday's 2-0 home win against Sheffield Wednesday.

He had a scan yesterday afternoon ahead of tomorrow night's Carling Cup second round trip to the Riverside Stadium, when Albion attempt to upset Juninho, Zenden and co.

Boss Steve Coppell revealed: "Charlie's had a neck problem for about two weeks now but, because of the character he is, he doesn't say a great deal about it.

"I know it's really been affecting him. I've got Chippy (Richard Carpenter) chomping at the bit. Charlie's determined not to give up his place, so it's a good position for me to be in.

"Jolly (Simon Rodger) has got the edge because he is left-sided and because of his delivery, but I am fairly happy with any permutation of two from those three.

"I know whoever I leave out is not going to be happy, but it's a long season. People are going to get opportunities and when they do it's up to them to keep hold of the place."

Kit man and goalkeeping coach John Keeley is expected to be on the bench again tomorrow night as cover for Michel Kuipers, although Ross Flitney (knee) should be fit for Saturday's League game at Hartlepool.

Ben Roberts' back injury rules him out of the north-east double header against two of his former clubs.

"Ross will travel with us," Coppell said. "We anticipate him at the moment to be fit for Saturday, probably not for Wednesday. Ben is going to be longer. We don't know how long because with a back injury it's in the lap of the Gods.

"He would love to be there, I know that. Certainly against Middlesbrough he would have loved to have put on a performance.

"He's had career threatening surgery on his back, so I think we can all understand he is a little bit conservative about his rehabilitation."

On-loan striker Darius Henderson is not in the party travelling to Teeside today and staying up until Saturday night.

Reading made him ineligible for the Carling Cup and he is training with the Royals before joining up with Albion for the Hartlepool match.

Chris McPhee will take Henderson's place, while John Piercy has been added to the squad on duty against Sheffield Wednesday.