Belfast Telegraph

Paterson exit opens door for McAllister

By Stuart Mckinley

Dungannon Swifts' striker Mark McAllister was last night drafted into Roy Millar's Northern Ireland under-21 squad.

Millar has turned to the teenage hitman for this evening's Euro 2008 qualifier against Israel at Mourneview Park with Martin Paterson once again ruled-out of an international game.

The Scunthorpe United goalscorer reported to the team hotel on Sunday and took part in the squad's first training session that afternoon, but he flew back to England on Monday morning for personal reasons.

Millar's hopes that Paterson would be able to return for the game were dashed yesterday afternoon when it was agreed that the player should remain in Lincolnshire, where he will now prepare for his club's Championship match at home to Leicester City.

Northern Ireland will still hope that they have a surprise or two up their sleeves for the Israelis, despite the teams facing each other a number of times over the last couple of years, most recently in the Milk Cup final during the summer.

Israel ran out 4-1 winners that night at the Coleraine Showgrounds, but only two of the Northern Ireland team from that game are expected to start tonight.

"We know them well having been over to Israel a couple of times and in return they have come to play at the Milk Cup," said Millar.

"The games between us have always been close, even in the Milk Cup Final when 4-1 flattered them a little.

"They are a decent side and drew 2-2 with Germany last Friday night, a result which does us a bit of a favour.

"It is a very tight group, even at a relatively early stage, and that sets things up for what should be a good game."

Germany are the only team to have beaten Northern Ireland in their last four outings and even then Millar took encouragement from the performance as he attempts to mould the current squad into the same kind of unit that boasted a lengthy unbeaten record until just over a year ago.

"At the end of the last campaign we lost a few players and the likes of Sammy Clingan have now progressed to the senior ranks while Kyle Lafferty and Jonny Evans have out-grown the under-21 team even though they are still eligible," said Millar.

"We have started this group quite well with two wins from three beating Moldova and Luxembourg as well as a win against Finland in a friendly in between.

"They have all been good results for this team and they are developing well."

The team that Millar sends out to face Israel will show at least two changes from the side that won 2-1 in Luxembourg last month as midfield pair Kieran McKenna and Robert Garrett are suspended.

Tony Kane - who was capped at under-21 level by the Republic of Ireland before agreeing to return to the Northern Ireland fold - is a certain starter at right-back after being in the senior squad last month.

Belfast Telegraph


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