Football: Opportunity knocks for Jenkins

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The Independent Online
The Chester City defender Iain Jenkins may win his first full cap for Northern Ireland in today's Group Nine World Cup qualifier against Armenia in Yerevan.

The 24-year-old had an outstanding B international debut during last month's win over Portugal, and Northern Ireland's manager, Bryan Hamilton, is expected to prefer Jenkins to St Johnstone's more experienced Danny Griffin.

Jenkins will link up with the wing-backs Jon McCarthy and Kevin Horlock, who replace Keith Gillespie and Michael Hughes.

Hamilton will not name his line-up until noon today because of a series of knocks picked up by players at the weekend which prevented them from training until arriving in Yerevan last night. This, together with six withdrawals from the originally selected squad and Gillespie's suspension, has compounded the manager's problems.

The Bolton Wanderers centre-back Gerry Taggart, tipped to take over the captaincy, is under treatment for a calf injury and the West Ham midfielder Steve Lomas is also doubtful with an ankle knock.

"This has been a most frustrating build up with those call-offs," Hamilton said. "It's essential we get the points. We must maintain our excellent away record and also continue to climb the Fifa world ratings."

Hamilton knows that Armenia, who are second bottom of the section with three points from four games - including a 1-1 draw in Belfast - feel they can win their first match. "Armenia are a good side," he admitted. "They have quality both in defence and attack."

Group Nine

P W D L F A Pts

Ukraine 5 4 0 1 6 3 12

Portugal 6 2 3 1 5 2 9

Germany 4 2 2 0 9 4 8

Northern Ireland 6 1 3 2 5 5 6

Armenia 4 0 3 1 3 7 3

Albania 5 0 1 4 2 10 1

Remaining fixtures: Today: Germany v Ukraine; Armenia v Northern Ireland. 7 May: Ukraine v Armenia. 7 June: Ukraine v Armenia; Portugal v Albania. 20 Aug: Northern Ireland v Germany; Portugal v Armenia; Ukraine v Albania. 6 Sept: Germany v Portugal; Armenia v Albania. 10 Sept: Albania v Northern Ireland; Germany v Armenia. 11 Oct: Germany v Albania; Portugal v Northern Ireland; Armenia v Ukraine.