Belfast Telegraph

Lafferty misses training and Whyte considered for debut: Michael O'Neill discusses Northern Ireland changes for Israel friendly

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is looking to make alterations to his side for Tuesday evening's game.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is looking to make alterations to his side for Tuesday evening's game.

Michael ONeill will freshen up his Northern Ireland side in Tuesday's friendly against Israel but said he is not in a position to make wholesale changes.

Northern Ireland are looking to bounce back from the disappointment of Saturdays 2-1 home loss to Bosnia & Herzegovina in the UEFA Nations League - a game in which they dominated but were hit by two sloppy goals.

Asked if he would make changes, ONeill said: "It gives me an opportunity to look at some aspects of it. But were not in a position where we can just change nine players.

"To do that we would need to ask players to play out of position, and when you bring players in you want to give them the best chance to do well, so its important to put them into a team which is cohesive and as strong as possible. There will be changes but it's not just a case of starting the players who didn't play on Saturday."

Change in goal?

Leeds goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell made his first competitive appearance at the weekend but found himself in the spotlight for the wrong reasons with Bosnia's second goal the result of a horrible mix-up with Craig Cathcart.

O'Neill declined to say who would start on Tuesday, but said the decision would not be based on Saturday's game.

"It's important that the lads get minutes," he said. "If I do make a change it will not be related to performance. Trevor (Carson) has been playing for Motherwell and Michael (McGovern) played in the cup for Norwich so I think the goalkeepers are strong.

"It was good for me to get Bailey on the pitch. He will be disappointed with the nature of the second goal but one thing I've noticed is he's already left it behind. He's not the type of guy who is going to dwell on things.

"He's in a position at his club where I imagine he's being pushed every day and that's good for us.  Any changes that are made will not be a reflection on performance but just on giving a bit of freshness to the team."

Any fresh injury concerns?

Kyle Lafferty, who started on Saturday but took a knock, did not train on Monday morning, but O'Neill said the Rangers forward was simply being rested.

Otherwise there are no fresh injury problems, with Josh Magennis already ruled out and defender Gareth McAuley having returned to Rangers.

Debut for Gavin?

Oxford midfielder Gavin Whyte is hoping to make his debut in the match. The 22-year-old only began playing full-time football this season after signing for Oxford from Crusaders, and O'Neill said the difference was noticeable already compared to his first call-up in May.

"He's training really well, far better than he did in the summer," he said. "I already see a lot of development with him going into full-time football.

"Whether he gets the opportunity tomorrow we'll see but I do feel we have another player who is going to soon be a full international player. When he first came in he was a little bit timid, a little bit light but he doesn't look like that now, he looks sharp."



From Belfast Telegraph