Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Crocked Duff could miss Sweden clash

Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington may have to do without Michael Duff for this month's European qualifier against Sweden in Stockholm after the big Burnley defender hobbled off during the Clarets' 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Duff, who partnered Chris Baird in the centre of Northern Ireland's defence in the recent defeats to Latvia and Iceland, is due to have a scan today on his leg - which he injured in an innocuous challenge only 35 minutes into the Championship match.

The 28-year-old scored Burnley's equalising goal but his joy soon turned to agony and he was forced to leave Turf Moor on crutches.

Burnley boss Steve Cotterill admits he has no idea about the length of time Duff may be out for.

"It doesn't look too good at this stage and we're just hoping it isn't bad," concedes Cotterill.

"We will send him to have scans - only then we will know the outcome and extent of the full damage."

Worthington will be hoping Duff recovers quickly so that he can face the Group F leaders in the Swedish capital on October 17.

The Northern Ireland chief is already without stand-in captain Baird who is suspended after picking up yellow cards in the last two games, although on the up side Aaron Hughes is back.

He kept Didier Drogba quiet until the Ivory Coast striker was red carded for a high challenge on Baird in the second half during Fulham's 0-0 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Hughes and Baird were two of four Northern Ireland players to start against Chelsea with David Healy, Steve Davis and Baird also in Lawrie Sanchez's first XI.

On target in the Championship at the weekend was Sheffield United winger Keith Gillespie who gave the Blades a 12th minute lead in their home encounter with Southampton, it was all to no avail though as Bryan Robson's side went down 2-1 to leave them with just two wins from their opening eight league games.

Elsewhere, 19 year-old right-back Chris Casement made his first start of the season for Ipswich Town, however, his day ended in disappointment as Jim Magilton's side suffered a surprise 3-1 defeat at Hull City.

Meanwhile striker Andy Kirk further pressed his claims for a recall to the full international squad when he bagged his third goal in four games and his sixth of the season as Northampton Town drew 2-2 with second placed Tranmere Rovers in League One.

Down in League Two Robbie Garrett made his 'second debut' for struggling Wrexham who moved off the bottom of the table thanks to a single goal victory over Lincoln City.

Following a successful loan spell with the Dragons last season, the Northern Ireland under-21 international hooked up again with the Welsh outfit for another loan stint which expires at the end of December.

"It's good to be getting serious action again," said the 19 year-old, whose only competitive games this term have been with Stoke City reserves. "I just want to get out on the pitch and play football and so far I'm enjoying it."

Finally, in Scotland former youth international Marc Smyth was dismissed in the final minute of Airdrie's 1-1 draw at Cowdenbeath for a professional foul; the fifth red card of his career.

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