Football: Kenny faces baptism of fire at St Andrew's

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THE BEST defensive record in the Nationwide League will today be placed in the hands of 20-year-old Patrick Kenny, who makes his debut for Bury at Birmingham after Dean Kiely's five successive clean sheets earned him a place in the Republic of Ireland squad to face Croatia.

Kenny is currently on loan from the UniBond League side Bradford Park Avenue, but the Bury manager, Neil Warnock, is confident that the young Yorkshireman is up to the job. "I have no qualms about throwing him into a big game," Warnock said. "We saw what he can do when he was with us prior to the season."

Kenny will sign a two-year contract on Monday, by which time Bury could be on top of the table if they win at St Andrew's. Birmingham themselves can go joint top with Wolves and Sunderland if they win, but Trevor Francis has five players under treatment and winger Jon McCarthy away with Northern Ireland. Central defender Michael Johnson (hip) is expected to be fit, but winger Peter Ndlovu is definitely missing after knee surgery, while left-back Simon Charlton (groin), striker Paul Furlong (hamstring) and midfielder Bryan Hughes (heel) are once again major doubts.

Steve Bruce takes his Sheffield United side to the Yorkshire derby at Huddersfield angry that he will be without Vassilis Borbokis and Dean Saunders, who are both away on international duty. Bruce believes their absence should have been enough to force the postponement of the game. Chris Wilder is expected to replace the Greek international at right-back, with Marcelo favourite to take over Saunders' striking role. Curtis Woodhouse could replace the suspended Ian Hamilton, but Bruce's hamstring injury keeps him out. Huddersfield's Marcus Browning is hoping to recover from a groin strain in time to play, along with Lee Richardson, who has foot blisters. In defence, Steve Jenkins should also recover from a knee injury.

Stockport's Paul Cook is winning his race to start against Grimsby as Gary Megson's side chase their first win this season. The midfielder has not trained all week after an injection for a niggling heel injury but should be fit. Grimsby's Steve Livingstone and Mark Lever are in contention for recalls, but their manager, Alan Buckley, is likely to retain the side that thrashed West Bromwich 5-1 on Monday.

Chris Hay could be in line for a Swindon recall as Bristol City visit the County Ground. Midfielder Scott Leitch may also return after recovering from a dead leg.