Middlesbrough among promotion challengers - Nicky Bailey

Nicky Bailey
Bailey has been ever-present in the Championship this season

Middlesbrough midfielder Nicky Bailey believes the club must consider themselves promotion contenders at the half-way stage of the season.

Boro are third in the Championship with 41 points from 22 games, having lost only three times so far this season.

"If you're up there at Christmas, you always give yourself a chance," the former Charlton player told BBC Tees.

"If we can beat Hull and put a bit of distance between us and them it bodes well for the rest of the season."

Bailey added: "It's a hard league, at one stage the gap between us and Southampton was 10 points, now it's down to three.

"It's a tough, competitive league and no-one is going to run away with it."

No team in the Championship has lost fewer games than the Teessiders, who in addition have recorded more points in the calendar year of 2011 than any other team in the division.

The Hammersmith-born schemer has been a key figure in the club's revival, the only league ever-present in the Boro first-team this term.

However two more yellow cards before the January amnesty would mean a suspension.

"I've done that through all my career, I hardly ever miss any games," Bailey said.

"I'm enjoying it, I just keep wanting to put in good performances and hope the manager picks me.

"That's all I can do, hopefully I won't get suspended in the next three games and play every game between now and the end of the season."