Keegan squad unwinds with day by the seaside

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The Independent Football

Kevin Keegan returned to one of the haunts of former mentor Bill Shankly yesterday as part of his bid to keep Manchester City on top of the First Division.

City made a bold statement of their ambitions with a stunning 4-1 FA Cup win over Ipswich on Sunday but return to league action as Millwall visit Maine Road tonight. Despite City's forthcoming fifth-round Cup tie against former club Newcastle, Keegan's number one priority remains promotion – and he knows that last weekend's good work will count for nothing if they fall to fellow challengers Millwall.

Keegan took his squad off to Southport for the day to unwind and re-visit a hotel he used to frequent in his old Liverpool days. "We've had a lot of travelling recently and are travelling again at the weekend down to London [to face Wimbledon], having just come back from Watford," said Keegan.

"So I got the lads just to put their tracksuits on and walk down a beach. We went for a cup of coffee and a bit of toast at a place – the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport – where Bill Shankly used to take me and all the squad from Liverpool in those days.

"Sometimes you can over-train. We're very fit – we've proved that in games already – and this was just a little way to save a bit of energy for the game tomorrow night and see if that works for us."

Keegan hopes the low-key approach will have the desired effect against a Lions side only five points behind them in the table. Millwall will travel without any support after both clubs agreed to ban away supporters from matches between them this season because of previous crowd trouble. Keegan expects Millwall to provide stern opposition and said: "It'll be a tough game and a strange game in that there'll be no away supporters there. But nevertheless it is a game that can push a more comfortable gap between us and the other teams fighting to get out of this division."

Unsurprisingly, Keegan is keeping faith with the outfield players who served him so well against Ipswich, with first-choice players Lucien Mettomo and Paulo Wanchope still away on international duty.

The Millwall striker Richard Sadlier hopes to return after missing the Lions' FA Cup defeat by Blackburn with a groin injury. Manager Mark McGhee said: "We'd rather there wasn't a ban on our supporters because some of them have never been to places like Maine Road, but it won't trouble us."

Nottingham Forest manager Paul Hart will welcome Stern John and David Prutton back for his team's clash with Portsmouth at the City Ground, but will be without Jim Brennan and the injured Matthieu Louis-Jean. Portsmouth's Peter Crouch, Jason Crowe and Carl Tiler all miss the match through suspension.

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