Worthington hopes for injury boost

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Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington will be hoping for a clean bill of health at training on Wednesday after adding Andrew Little and Oliver Norwood to his squad to as injury cover.

His hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012 expired with last month's dire 4-1 defeat in Estonia but Worthington, whose current deal runs until the end of the year, is looking to make a case for a new contract with victory over the same opponents at Windsor Park on Friday, followed by a high-profile clash with Italy four days later.

His prospects have already been hit by the withdrawals of Aaron Hughes, whose groin injury has denied him a farewell appearance before retirement, Josh McQuoid (virus) and Jamie Ward (hamstring).

Uncapped Preston defender Conor McLaughlin had already been added to the squad to add depth to the back line and on Tuesday Worthington sent for Port Vale's on-loan Rangers forward Little and Manchester United product Norwood, who is currently on loan at Scunthorpe.

The squad will train again on Wednesday and Worthington will be looking for good news on Red Devils centre-back Jonny Evans, who is a doubt for the double header due to an ankle problem, as well as crossing his fingers that no new injuries develop.

Key pair Pat McCourt and Kyle Lafferty were both ruled out of the make-or-break matches against Serbia and Estonia last time out, but are back on duty this time and both would be expected to return to the starting XI if fully fit on Friday.

With Hughes working his way back to fitness with Fulham, Worthington must also select someone to wear the captain's armband in his absence.

West Brom centre-half Gareth McAuley is one option, as is Chris Brunt, the Baggies captain.

But Rangers skipper Steven Davis is the most likely option for the Estonia match, not least because the game will mark his 50th cap.

Worthington, meanwhile, is also though to be considering handing a swansong to long-serving goalkeeper Maik Taylor for the trip to Italy, meaning he could lead the side in what would surely be a final appearance for his country at the age of 40.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Jamie Ward
Aaron Hughes
Josh McQuoid
Steven Davis
West Bromwich Albion
Kyle Lafferty
Chris Brunt
Scunthorpe United
League One
Port Vale
Preston North End
Manchester United
Steven Davis
Gareth McAuley
Jonny Evans
Maik Taylor

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