Belfast Telegraph

Windsor woe as Northern Ireland battle injuries

By Stuart McKinley

Nigel Worthington is ready to turn to a 21-year-old with only 45 minutes of international football under his belt as he attempts to keep Northern Ireland’s Euro 2012 dream alive.

The spine of Worthington’s team has been ripped out by a spate of injuries and now Millwall striker Josh McQuoid is in line to face Slovenia at Windsor Park tomorrow night in what is a must win game for Northern Ireland after Friday night’s 2-1 defeat in Serbia.

McQuoid’s only international action so far came as a second-half substitute in last November’s friendly against Morocco and now he could be thrust into what Worthington has described as ‘a very big game.’

Midfielder Steven Davis pulled out before the squad met up last Monday and first choice goalkeeper Maik Taylor was ruled out of the game ahead of the departure for Belgrade.

Captain Aaron Hughes and striker Kyle Lafferty are now also out — Hughes after picking up a shoulder injury against Serbia and Lafferty with a knee problem that forced him out of Friday’s game at half-time.

Record goalscorer David Healy won’t face Slovenia either due to suspension, leaving Northern Ireland desperately short of attacking options, which is why Worthington called McQuoid yesterday morning to draft him into the squad.

“I have brought Josh in because Kyle will have to go back to Rangers for treatment and obviously David is out,” explained Worthington.

“Josh is a good young player with plenty to offer us.

“He has a good turn of pace and is full of enthusiasm and drive and will be a welcome addition for what is now a very big game.

“He is also another young player in the squad and I really see that as the way forward for us.”

“Sometimes you just have to move on and build for the future.”

Northern Ireland lie fifth in Group C with five points from four games. A win would see Worthington’s men jump above Slovenia, who are currently in second place. A draw between Estonia and Serbia in Tallin would see Northern Ireland go second before taking a five-month break from qualifiers.

The loss of Taylor hasn’t been too keenly felt thanks to Lee Camp’s availability, but Davis’ quality on the ball was missed during the last half-hour of Friday’s match.

Lafferty’s enforced withdrawal changed the dynamic of the team, while Hughes amazingly played through the pain barrier after dislocating his shoulder in the first half.

“Aaron didn’t travel to Belfast with us on Saturday, instead he got a flight to London for a scan on his shoulder and it revealed some damage,” said Worthington.

“Fulham are going to let it settle for a few days before seeing if the problem needs some further work, but his absence is, of course, a big blow for us.”

Hughes — who hasn’t missed a competitive game since |September 2007 — could now face a number of weeks on the sidelines.

He said: “I felt something pop back in, so I assume that it had to come out to go back in.”

Lafferty’s knee problem means that there may be a chance for Warren Feeney to reproduce his heroics from two years ago, when he scored in a 1-0 win over Slovenia at Windsor Park.

“I had been training with it and I don't think I should have been playing, but I gave it a go and it backfired,” said Lafferty.

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