York City's England Under-21 goalkeeper Russell Howarth was forced to make a mad dash back to Yorkshire yesterday as he looks to secure a move to Division One outfit Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Howarth's future looked to be back in the balance as his two-week spell at Molineux came to a close, but after Saturday's 3-3 draw against Conference side Morecambe, the highly-rated shot-stopper was told he had been invited to join the Wolves for their pre-season tour of Portugal.

And his inclusion in the 20-strong travelling party, which flies out tonight, came as a real surprise to Howarth, who had left his passport back at home.

"I've had to head home to pick up my passport and a few bits," Howarth told the Evening Press. "I was told by one of the coaching staff I would be travelling with them for the week-long trip to Portugal.

"It is great. I just hope that a deal can now be sorted out while I'm away or when I get back."

Wolves boss Dave Jones has named a strong first team squad to head out, with Howarth, who has already travelled to France and Switzerland in the past few months on England duty, edging out last season's second-choice keeper, Matt Murphy, for a place on the plane.

Former Aston Villa net-minder Michael Oakes will travel as Jones' first choice, but with games against Sporting Lisborn and Maritimo interspersed during the training week, Howarth will hope to get his chance.

Howarth, who was limited to just two starts for York City last season because of the outstanding form of Alan Fettis, did play ahead of Oakes in Saturday's friendly against Morecambe, but he knows that will not be a luxury he will get every week at Molineux if he does sign.

"I played for the full 90 minutes and it was a good workout," he said. "As it was the first game of pre-season, it isn't really the result that counts. It is more like a training game.

"It was good to start and play the whole game, but it was more for Dave Jones to have a good look at me.

"I've no doubts that if I do join that Michael Oakes will be number one, especially after the season he has had.

"My aim is to sort out my club situation sorted out, then after that I'd like to get a few games at Wolves.

"I know I'd be in a similar position to the one I was in at York City, but if I did get a chance, it would be in the First Division and not the Third."

Another goalkeeper to graduate from the City youth ranks, Nick Culkin, was given a baptism of fire on his debut for Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.

Having swapped the comfy life in the reserves at Manchester United for the hard graft in the Second Division with QPR, Culkin will certainly remember his first start - as Celtic won their friendly encounter 7-3.

Culkin, 24, was only in goal for the first 45 minutes and he had to be at his very best to prevent Celtic entering the half-time break with a bigger lead than their 3-1 advantage.

Updated: 11:39 Monday, July 15, 2002