O’Neill’s defensive headache intensifies after Cathcart withdraws with injury
Northern Ireland’s defensive injury woes continue after centre back Craig Cathcart was forced to withdraw from the World Cup qualifying games against San Marino and the Czech Republic with a knee problem.
West Brom’s Gareth McAuley is already ruled out with a thigh issue, while his club mate Jonny Evans, with a similar injury, is a major concern for the clash in San Marino on Friday night having not played at all this season, although Baggies manager Tony Pulis insisted the man who is currently courting attention from Manchester City was ‘close’ to playing against Stoke last Sunday.
Watford defender Cathcart sustained the injury on Saturday in the Hornets’ 0-0 Premier League draw against Brighton at Vicarage Road, which saw the 28-year-old come on as a first-half substitute before being forced off again shortly after half-time.
Hearts defender Michael Smith, who has one international cap to his name, has been called up as a replacement for Cathcart, while Leeds goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell has also been added by Michael O’Neill.