Kelly keeps Aldridge out

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The Independent Online

reports from Dublin

David Kelly, the scorer of the Republic of Ireland goal that got lost amid a hail of wooden missiles and the stench of hooligan savagery, won Jack Charlton's backing yesterday to continue in his country's front line for this afternoon's European Championship qualifying tie with their neighbours from the North.

Kelly's career has had something of a revival this season and it was his sharply taken effort at Lansdowne Road which had the Republic on top of England last month before the lunatics intervened.

Since then John Aldridge, a long-time Charlton favourite, has recovered his fitness to edge Tranmere ahead of Kelly's Wolves in the chase for First Division promotion, but in this contest Kelly has won the day and some consolation after the game's governing body, Fifa, ruled that the Dublin game and his goal should be erased from the record books.

"David did well against England and is now doing more of what I like so he deserves another chance," the Republic's manager said.

With Niall Quinn recovering from a stomach upset the remainder of Charlton's team selects itself. So blessed has the Irish manager been this time with injuries that he had 25 involved in yesterday's training session and suggested he could have picked two sides "and the difference would not have been that great".

Northern Ireland, overwhelmed when the countries met in Belfast, are also favoured in that regard and have Alan McDonald, who was sorely missed in November, back to organise things. Charlton foresees a difficult 90 minutes.

"It was a bit traumatic for them last time and I felt sorry for Bryan Hamilton because when we were 2-0 ahead they had a couple of chances to get back in it. At the end it looked as if we were walking the game but earlier on it was not like that at all."

With a team showing three wins out of three and still to concede a goal, Charlton's main concern has been to stamp out any complacency, and if they start with the rush that resulted in a four-goal margin before the hour in Belfast, he might gain a modicum of comfort from the debris of Dublin's night of English shame.

Certainly there is a feeling in the Republic's camp of unfinished business, yet another reminder that this will be a different proposition was eagerly seized by Charlton yesterday when it was suggested that, at 13-2, the North were an attractive bet.

"You've put a thought in my mind there. I would take a wager on a draw or an away win," he replied with a broad smile just in case any bung-busters were within earshot. "The bookies do get it wrong but hopefully, in this case, they will be proved right."

Hamilton delays his selection and is aware that after two defeats this is essentially a "win or bust" fixture.

He is expecting more from Keith Gillespie now his move to Newcastle has given him a regular first-team place but, just like the Garda who will have 1,000 police on duty in and around the stadium even though only 200 tickets have gone to the North, the feeling persists that the time to show their strength has passed.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: A Kelly (Sheffield United); G Kelly (Leeds), McGrath (Aston Villa), Babb (Liverpool), Irwin, Keane (Manchester United), Sheridan (Sheffield Wednesday), Townsend, Staunton (Aston Villa), Quinn (Manchester City), D Kelly (Wolves).

NORTHERN IRELAND (probable): Fettis (Hull); Patterson (Crystal Palace), Hill (Leicester), McDonald (QPR), Taggart (Barnsley), Worthington (Leeds), Gillespie (Newcastle), Magilton (Southampton), Morrow (Arsenal), Dowie (Crystal Palace), Gray (Sunderland).