PREVIEW: Middlesborough vs Bristol City
DEREK McInnes is the first to admit loan signings represent a far from ideal method of battling relegation.
Invariably, those brought in on a short-term basis have their own agenda and cannot always be relied upon to buy into the cause of the team they are joining.
Certainly, City's recent history is littered with loan signings who failed to deliver.
Yet McInnes, now in his 14th month at the helm, has demonstrated an uncanny knack of identifying the right type of player and character whenever he has been forced to dip into the loan market.
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There is no doubting the integral part played by Chris Wood, Andre Bikey and Hogan Ephraim towards the end of last season and, based on the evidence of last weekend's 1-1 draw against Blackpool, it seems reasonable to expect Neil Danns and Matt Bates, pictured, to exert a similarly positive influence now that they are on the Ashton Gate staff.
Recruited from Championship rivals Leicester for a month initially, Danns visibly lifted his new team-mates on his debut, pursuing no end of lost causes and putting himself about in a manner which galvanised those around him.
Offered a two-month contract after proving his fitness during a two-week training stint, former Middlesbrough defender Bates also made a difference.
The newcomers offer a freshness and vitality that was notably lacking during the recent 2-0 home defeat to Charlton.
Indeed, their very presence and the return to action of teenage left-back Joe Bryan has ushered in a new sense of optimism inside the dressing room.
Although tomorrow's trip to third-placed Middlesbrough can be assigned to the folder marked 'tall order', the manager's latest loan signings suggest an upturn in fortunes might just be at hand.
It can be argued both Danns and Bates have an added incentive to do well, the one because he has been starved of opportunity at Leicester and is desperate to play games, the other owing to the pressing necessity to revive a career temporarily stalled by serious injury.
Since returning to the Championship, the Robins have made three trips to the North East and, on each occasion, have returned with at least a point.
Having trained with Boro's first-team squad only a few weeks ago, Bates finds himself in an entirely unexpected situation.
Born in nearby Stockton, the defender supported Boro as a boy and was a one-club stalwart until severing his ties with the North East by joining City. In one of those quirks peculiar to professional football, the 25-year-old will head for the away dressing room when he returns to the Riverside tomorrow.
He joked: "It will seem a bit strange after all those years playing for the home side.
"To be honest, I'm more worried about upsetting my family – they are all mad-keen Middlesbrough fans and will probably be at the game!"
Having recuperated from a fifth knee injury in as many years, Bates is understandably taking his City sojourn one match at a time.
Asked about the possibility of earning a long-term contract, he replied: "I don't want to think that far ahead. After seven-and-a-half months out injured, it has to be one step at a time."
It goes without saying that, should his next step involve helping City upset the odds in the North east, the chances of him being offered an extended deal in January will be greatly enhanced.