Northern Ireland’s preparations for Wednesday night’s Carling Nations Cup clash with Scotland have been badly disrupted by the withdrawal of three key men.
Manager Nigel Worthington had already suffered four withdrawals and added to the list of absentees yesterday was talented trio Aaron Hughes, Chris Brunt and Kyle Lafferty.
It’s a significant blow to Worthington who is now without the experience of three men who have gained a total of 134 caps between them.
Prior to yesterday the injury list had read Maik Taylor, Craig Cathcart, Sammy Clingan and Jonny Gorman.
Worthington must have feared that the list would grow after the weekend fixtures and his worst fears were confirmed yesterday.
Fulham defender Hughes is nursing back and hamstring injuries and his withdrawal could now see the captain’s armband going to Stephen Craigan.
Striker Lafferty, who came on as a substitute in the 2-2 draw with Celtic in the Scottish Cup fifth-round tie at Ibrox yesterday, is being tested for glandular fever.
West Brom winger Brunt is nursing an ankle injury and he will remain at The Hawthorns.
Worthington has called up Manchester United striker Olly Norwood and Watford duo Lee Hodson and Adam Thompson.
Hodson made his Northern Ireland debut in the friendly against Morocco in November while Thompson steps up from the Under-21 squad.
Aberdeen’s Rory McArdle had already been called into the panel.
Scotland boss Craig Levein has also suffered late withdrawals. Northern Ireland will not have to face Manchester United favourite Darren Fletcher who has an ankle and eye socket problem.
West Brom's Graham Dorrans (ankle) has pulled out and Wigan defender Gary Caldwell is doubtful with a cheekbone injury.
Rangers midfielder Lee McCulloch (knee) is out while Caldwell's brother and club team-mate, Steven Caldwell, and James McArthur, also from Wigan, have been called up as replacements.