FOOTBALL: Millwall mull over life without £2m Kennedy

Trevor Haylett previews the First Division fixtures
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The Independent Online
The same journey which this week made Mark Kennedy a £2m teenager will be undertaken by Tranmere Rovers today in reverse. From Millwall to Merseyside or the other way round, in each case the object is the same: to make an impact in the Premiership.

The lite division stays idle this weekend as all 22 runners take a breather in readiness for the season's frenzied final furlong, thanks to next week's internationals, but still Kennedy, transferred to Liverpool's illustrious stable, seems certain to get his opportunity before the men from Prenton Park who can return to the First Division summit this afternoon.

There have been worse times to make a visit to The Den, new or old. The decision to cash in on their gifted 18-year-old has produced a bulging postbag for the Millwall chairman, Reg Burr, and not every correspondent is thought to have been expressing thanks and best wishes. After four successive defeats morale was already pretty low. Now it has regressed further.

Millwall include Kerry Dixon, signed for a nominal fee from Luton, but are without Alex Rae through suspension. Tranmere leave behind their central defender Shaun Garnett and midfielder Jed Brannan who both start two-match suspensions.

Middlesbrough, who went back to the top with the midweek win at Sunderland, will hope their finishing at home to Port Vale tomorrow is better than it was on Thursday when they failed to complete the signing of Phil Whelan from Ipswich the right side of the transfer deadline.

Both clubs asked the Football League to look at the matter again yesterday but the decision remained unchanged. Now Whelan has to decide whether to return to Ipswich or stay in Middlesbrough's reserves for the remainder of the season.

Any slip from the leading pair could be punished by Bolton who will try and avert their eyes from next weekend's Wembley visit to face Liverpool in the Coca-Cola Cup final while they try and take important promotion points from Portsmouth.

The home side must do without two defenders, Kit Symons and Guy Butters, who are banned for two games but the Pompey manager, Terry Fenwick, has ruled out the possibility of playing himself, because of a lack of match fitness.

Bolton include their latest signings, Gudni Bergsson and John Dreyer, but lose John McGinlay who is wanted by Scotland.

Reading will be without both their managers for the important meeting with Sheffield United who lie just one place and one point below them in the promotion frame. Northern Ireland's Jimmy Quinn is also sacrificed to the five-day international rule and Mick Gooding is suspended.