JIMMY Phillips is happy to play “Tinkerman” until the very end to protect his unbeaten record as caretaker boss.

Faced with the challenge of his former club Middlesbrough tomorrow, the Bolton-born coach knows this will be his last stint in charge of his home-town club before handing over the reins to Dougie Freedman.

But Phillips is determined to finish in style, and has pledged to persist with the often experimental, but always entertaining style that has won over so many people on the terraces in the last fortnight.

From employing Kevin Davies as an emergency centre-half at Wolves, to switching Chris Eagles in from the right wing against Bristol City to swing the game in Wanderers’ favour – tactical twists have been par for the course so far under the Academy chief.

And if the surprise element is needed once again to get the better of former Ayresome Park team-mate Tony Mowbray, Phillips is only too happy to oblige.

“It’s whatever works to get the result,” he said. “I didn’t anticipate having to play three at the back (at Wolves), or having to throw a midfielder (Keith Andrews) on to get us a goal, but I think it was a gamble worth taking.

“Putting Kevin back there at centre-back, I was confident he’d do a good job, because the experience he’s got as a player - I knew he wouldn’t let us down.

“You have to be willing to try little things. Sometimes they work, sometimes you have to change again. But it’s important to be flexible.”

It seems likely that a different approach will be needed at the back tomorrow with Matt Mills currently struggling to overcome a tight hamstring.

That could mean an opportunity for Sam Ricketts, who came off the bench at Molineux, or Zat Knight, whose future has come under scrutiny since being dropped completely from the squad in Phillips’ first game in charge.

Knight played 90 minutes for the development squad on Monday night, but Phillips insists there are no hidden problems that have prompted his decision.

“There hasn’t been an issue with Zat whatsoever,” he said.

“We decided to give Tim Ream a run and the thought behind it was that he’s a quicker defender.

“We just felt with the pace at the back we could squeeze the play a little bit more.

“Having said that, we knew that come set plays we might leave ourselves a bit short.”

Phillips spent three years at Boro as a player in the early 1990s and helped them gain promotion in the first-ever season of the Premier League.

He also came close to silverware in the old Rumbelows Cup, until being matched up with a teenage winger by the name of Ryan Giggs in the semi-finals.

“Boro was a great club and I played in some great North East derbies against Sunderland and Newcastle United,” he said. “But I also remember getting into the League Cup semi-finals and losing to Manchester United in the second to last minute of injury time.

“A very young Ryan Giggs sliced one into the top corner from 20 yards.

“He’s not so young now, but what a fantastic career.”