ACHILLLES INJURY KNOCKS LAFFERTY OUT OF RUSSIA CLASH

Palmero striker Kyle Lafferty to miss NI game against Russia over Achilles injury

Palmero striker Kyle Lafferty to miss NI game against Russia over Achilles injury

NORTHERN Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has suffered a blow on the eve of his team’s World Cup Qualifier against Russia in Belfast on Wednesday evening.

Former Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty has been ruled out after getting injured playing for his club Palermo.

Lafferty had been due to return to the Northern Ireland side for the rescheduled game at Windsor Park after missing the Group F match against Israel through suspension.

But he picked up an Achilles injury and did not travel to Belfast to meet up with the Northern Ireland squad for training.

The match was due to have been played in March but heavy snow on the frozen pitch meant the match had to be postponed until the summer.

Other strikers in the squad include Martin Paterson, Will Grigg and Billy McKay.

David Healy didn’t make to the squad as he is not playing regular football at present.

On Monday, O’Neill called up Falkirk keeper Michael McGovern to replace Alan Mannus who picked up a shoulder injury after playing for St Johnstone against Kilmarnock.

Roy Carroll is set to start in goal, with McGovern as cover.

Sammy Clingan is ruled out by a knee injury while Chris Brunt is missing because of suspension.

Chris Baird, David Healy and Pat McCourt have not been considered because they are currently without clubs.

Northern Ireland’s hopes of qualification have ended after three draws and two defeats, while O’Neill is still looking for his first win as manager.

The Northern Ireland boss has overseen nine fixtures since his appointment in December 2011.

Michael O’Neill urges cautious approach against Russians

“We only have two days together to prepare but we have to deal with that and the squad know what is expected of them coming off a disappointing home defeat by Israel, although the performance was decent.

“We have to make sure that we are difficult to beat. Russia are in a strong position in the group and will come here looking for three points to strengthen their position even more.

“We will have to be positive in an attacking sense too, yet have an air of caution because of the quality of the Russians.

“We have a gameplan to keep us in the match and create chances of our own.”

Manchester United defender Jonny Evans suffered a niggle in pre-season with the Premier League champions but is fit and ready to face the Russians.

“At no point was I concerned that he wouldn’t be available,” said O’Neill.

NORTHERN IRELAND SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Carroll (Olympiacos), McGovern (Falkirk)

Defenders: Hughes (Fulham), McGivern (Hibernian), Cathcart (Blackpool), McAuley (West Brom), D Lafferty (Burnley), J Evans (Manchester United), Bruce (Hull City), Hodson (MK Dons)

Midfielders: Davis (Southampton), Norwood (Huddersfield), McGinn (Aberdeen), Ferguson (Newcastle Utd – on loan at Birmingham City), C Evans (Blackburn), McCann (Peterborough), O’Connor (Rotherham Utd)

Forwards: Grigg (Brentford), McKay (Inverness CT), Paterson (Huddersfield), Ward (Derby)

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