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Lafferty returns for Russia clash

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has named a 20-man squad for next week's World Cup qualifying home clash against Russia.

Striker Kyle Lafferty, who sat out the last qualifier due to suspension, is among the party for the Group F game next Wednesday at Windsor Park.

Fellow frontman David Healy, midfielder Paddy McCourt and defender Chris Baird - all currently without a club - have not been included, while West Brom midfielder Chris Brunt is also absent.

The fixture had originally been scheduled for March, but heavy snow and icy playing conditions in Belfast saw it postponed.

Brunt is unavailable as he has to serve a one-match ban after picking up a yellow card late in the last qualifier, a 2-0 home defeat to Israel on March 26.

O'Neill, whose men have scored only three goals so far in a qualifying campaign that has seen them draw three and lose two of their five contests, has called up five forwards.

Along with Lafferty, a summer signing for Italian side Palermo, and new Huddersfield recruit Martin Paterson, there are also places for Billy McKay of Inverness, Will Grigg - now a Brentford player - and Derby's Jamie Ward.

The latter pair were both ruled out of the Israel encounter due to injury.

Kilmarnock midfielder Sammy Clingan misses out this time as he is nursing a knee problem and O'Neill has also not selected New York Red Bulls' midfield man Jonny Steele, who he last month said would "get his chance soon".

With their three points, Northern Ireland are currently fifth of the six teams in Group F and a point behind fourth-placed Azerbaijan, who have played two more matches.

Russia are second on 12 points from five games, sandwiched between leaders Portugal (14 points from seven games) and third-placed Israel (11 points from six games).

O'Neill is still searching for his first victory since being appointed as Northern Ireland boss in December 2011, having overseen a total of nine fixtures.

Northern Ireland squad for Russia: Carroll (Olympiacos), Mannus (St Johnstone), Hughes (Fulham), McGivern (Hibernian), Cathcart (Blackpool), McAuley (West Brom), D Lafferty (Burnley), J Evans (Manchester United), Bruce (Hull), Davis (Southampton), Norwood (Huddersfield), McCann (Peterborough), McGinn (Aberdeen), Ferguson (Birmingham, on loan from Newcastle), C Evans (Blackburn), Grigg (Brentford), McKay (Inverness), Paterson (Huddersfield), Ward (Derby), K Lafferty (Palermo).

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