Return of Kidd lifts Preston

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The Independent Online

Preston North End, who hope to continue their impressive introduction to First Division football with a win over Portsmouth today, have received some more good news with the return to action of the defender Ryan Kidd, who has been out of action with a career-threatening neck injury.

Preston North End, who hope to continue their impressive introduction to First Division football with a win over Portsmouth today, have received some more good news with the return to action of the defender Ryan Kidd, who has been out of action with a career-threatening neck injury.

The 28-year-old defender took a major step on the road to recovery by playing for more than an hour in the reserves' game against Bolton earlier this week. Preston's assistant manager, Kelham O'Hanlon, said: "It was very pleasing to see Ryan back. This is really only his pre-season, and he has a long way to go."

Nevertheless, the squad will have been lifted by Kidd's return to action and Preston's manager, David Moyes, will be hoping his unchanged team can translate that lift into three points against Tony Pulis's side. Last time out they drew 1-1 against Wimbledon and Moyes said: "I was relatively pleased to come away with a point.

Portsmouth will be without the winger Kevin Harper after the 24-year-old hobbled out of the Bank Holiday game with Wolves with an ankle injury, while the defenders Adrian Whitbread (knee injury) and Andy Awford (back) are still out of action. The Welsh international Ceri Hughes is another absentee - he is on his way back to fitness but has not fully recovered from a back strain.

Portsmouth will be hoping that Steve Claridge can continue his rich vein of form after he grabbed a hat-trick in just 29 minutes during the win over Wolves. The 34-year-old veteran striker was rewarded with a new three-year contract earlier this week.

The Wolves manager, Colin Lee, tried to get his side's match at Gillingham today postponed as the club have lost three players to this weekend's international programme. But the plea has been ignored by the Football Association and Lee will have to make the trip to Kent with a squad which has also been ravaged by injury.

Carl Robinson has received a late call-up to the Wales squad, Ryan Green has been selected for Wales Under-21s and Lee Naylor is on England Under-21 duty. Added to this, Michael Branch and Rob Taylor will undergo late fitness tests while Ludovic Pollet, Andy Sinton, Mike Stowell, Havard Flo and George Ndah have all been ruled out.

Gillingham, who have made a slow start to First Division life, have injury problems as well. The defender Roland Edge was substituted at half-time during the 1-1 draw with Burnley on Bank Holiday Monday because he was suffering from double vision, but he is likely to be available for selection. The midfielder Marcus Browning may return after a knee injury while the 29-year-old striker Andy Thomson is hoping to shake off a groin strain.

Tomorrow, West Bromwich Albion host Crystal Palace. The Baggies' manager, Gary Megson, will be able to select his striker Lee Roberts, who has missed the last two games against Barnsley and Queen's Park Rangers. The club's record signing has been suffering with a foot injury but a scan has revealed nothing serious.

Alan Smith, the Crystal Palace manager, will be without the services of Mikael Forssell for the trip to The Hawthorns. The striker is on international duty with Finland, who are preparing for their World Cup qualifier with Albania.

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