Evans blow for Northern Ireland
Published 10/11/2012 | 20:53
While Little (foot) and Bruce (knee) would be unlikely to make the starting XI for the Group F clash, Evans (groin) is one of Michael O'Neill's most important players and was one of the top performers in the side's memorable 1-1 draw in Portugal last month.
O'Neill has responded to the withdrawals by adding uncapped Liverpool teenager Ryan McLaughlin and Burnley's Danny Lafferty to his squad.
Evans had a modest turnout record in the latter stages of Nigel Worthington's reign but has been a regular since O'Neill took over at the turn of the year, even playing despite carrying a knock against Luxembourg in September.
Little made a fine start to the season with Rangers, but he has now pulled out of successive Northern Ireland squads due to fitness issues. Bruce, pencilled in to offer cover at right-back, has also dropped out of the last two parties.
McLaughlin, a highly-rated 18-year-old who has yet to make his senior Liverpool debut, will now deputise at right-back having been promoted from the Under-21 side to face England on Tuesday.
Left-back Lafferty is not a like-for-like replacement for any of the injured players but with Cathcart now needed in the centre, he will vie with Ryan McGivern for a starting spot. Derby striker Jamie Ward (hamstring) was the first player to be withdrawn from O'Neill's 24-man panel and was yesterday replaced by Inverness' Billy McKay.