CRAIG Davies is shaping up to be the man to fire Wanderers into the play-offs.

With David Ngog out for the season – Dougie Freedman reckons the Wales international is now primed to step into the striker’s role for today’s vital clash against Middlesbrough.

Victory this afternoon would most likely propel the Whites back into the top six with just two games remaining.

And Freedman is ready to trust his £300,000 January capture from Barnsley, who netted a winner for his former club against Boro earlier in the season, with the task of leading the line again.

“I think Craig’s contributions off the bench have been very good,” he told The Bolton News.

“But sometimes starting certain games I don’t think he’s been fit to last 80 or 90 minutes.

“We have worked on that with him and now his desire and commitment has got him to that level.

“He is always staying behind in training doing his extras so I think he’s at a level now where he can step in.”

It remains to be seen whether Marvin Sordell will be brought back in to form a two-man attack – but the omens do not look good for Kevin Davies, who looks set to sit out another game on the sidelines.

The club skipper was dropped from the squad for Tuesday night’s 3-2 defeat against Leicester City and has been visibly upset at spending time on the bench in recent games against Wolves and Bristol City.

Davies has not played since being told that the club would not be giving him a new contract this summer.

But Freedman insists he will only be picking his side based on merit going into the final three games of the campaign.

“I understand that Kevin will be gutted, and he would be absolutely right to be, about the news that we would not be renewing his contract,” he said. “Rightly or wrongly I just thought it was out of respect that he got told as early as possible. “He wants to play on, so he can get his career going for next season.

“Why wouldn’t he be gutted because he’s not playing? It’s a wonderful club, he obviously loves the place and that’s fantastic.

“I pick my squad on merit. People are fit and hungry and training to me is very, very crucial.

“At the end of the day, Kevin is a paid employee of the football club until June 30.

“I know he doesn’t want any special treatment but I am picking players based on their merit, their hunger and the fact they are desperate to do well for the football club right now.”

But Freedman insists there is still a chance for the 36-year-old to get back into his plans.

“We all want to get into the play-offs and it would be silly not to open to door to everyone,” he added.