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Rowlands on road back as Cillian toils

IRELAND man Martin Rowlands is ready to end his year-long absence due to injury and return to action with QPR, writes Aidan Fitzmaurice.

The midfielder has played a single first-team game since he suffered a serious knee injury while playing for Ireland in a World Cup qualifier at home to Montenegro last October, forcing the 30-year-old to undergo surgery.

But Rowlands took a major step closer to full fitness on Saturday as he was named on the bench by QPR for their 2-0 win away to Leicester City, a win which extends Rangers' lead at the top of the Championship table to five points.

Giovanni Trapattoni is a big fan of Rowlands, who ended a five-year exile from the international scene (he was first capped by Brian Kerr in 2004) when he played as a sub in the home World Cup qualifier against Italy last year and then started in midfield for the suspended Glenn Whelan at home to Montenegro four days later, but he suffered that knee injury with an awkward fall in the first half and has not played since.

CILLIAN Sheridan had a tough night in the Bulgarian league last night as his club CSKA Sofia went down 1-0 in a local derby and the Ireland international was taken off at half time.

CSKA are now ninth in the league table -- in the bottom half -- after taking just eight points from seven games, CSKA losing 1-0 to Slavia Sofia last night. Sheridan started the game but was taken off at half-time.