Football: Furlong set for timely return

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The Independent Online
INTERNATIONAL DUTIES this afternoon leave several Nationwide League clubs without some of their best players.

Birmingham City will be without winger Jon McCarthy against fellow high- flyers Watford at Vicarage Road. McCarthy is on duty with Northern Ireland and will be replaced by midfielder Steve Robinson. Striker Paul Furlong, who has missed the last 15 games with a hamstring strain, is due to return against his old club.

Watford expect to field an unchanged team. Graham Taylor keeps faith with the same players despite a 4-1 roasting at West Bromwich Albion last Sunday.

The Republic of Ireland's Alan McLoughlin misses Portsmouth's trip to Bristol City as Alan Ball's side search for their first victory in four games. The former Arsenal man, David Hillier, is likely to replace him in midfield.

Forward Matt Murphy is pushing his claims for a recall for Oxford United's clash with the First Division's bottom club, Tranmere Rovers. Murphy has been out for three weeks with a hamstring injury but scored twice for Oxford's reserves in a midweek win over Reading.

His manager, Malcolm Shotton, must weigh up whether to bring Murphy back up alongside Dean Windass. Teenager Jamie Cook is also pressing hard for a return on the wing.