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Friday 18 April 2014

Paterson back for Northern Ireland

Martin Paterson is back in the Northern Ireland ranks

Martin Paterson is back in the Northern Ireland squad for this month's World Cup qualifying double-header after ending a self-imposed absence.

The Burnley striker had requested some time away from the national side at the start of the current campaign in a bid to get himself back to full fitness following a series of injuries. But he was named in Michael O'Neill's squad for the home matches against Russia and Israel on March 22 and March 26.

O'Neill has named 24 players for the meeting with Group F leaders Russia, with suspended duo Kyle Lafferty and Chris Baird joining up with the squad for the Israel match.

Paterson's availability is particularly important given Lafferty's absence from the first fixture and the injury-enforced absence of Dean Shiels, who hurt his knee playing for Rangers last weekend.

He will now compete with the likes of Billy McKay, who made his debut in the friendly draw against Malta last month, Will Grigg and Jamie Ward for a starting berth up front.

There are recalls, meanwhile, for experienced midfielders Sammy Clingan and Grant McCann. Clingan captained the side in O'Neill's second match in charge but was dropped while he looked for a new club earlier this season.

He has since been picked up by Kilmarnock and will be in line to take up Baird's position in front of the back four, a role Alex Bruce will also be eyeing.

Peterborough's McCann, meanwhile, is back after falling out of favour under O'Neill. Veteran goalkeeper Roy Carroll returns to the panel after being excused from the Malta friendly.

O'Neill is searching for his first win as Northern Ireland boss and has overseen three consecutive draws in World Cup qualification. Russia are the only side to have beaten them, in the opening fixture, while they have yet to play Israel.

Northern Ireland squad: R Carroll (Olympiacos), A Mannus (St Johnstone), M McGovern (Falkirk), A Hughes (Fulham), R McGivern (Hibernian), C Cathcart (Blackpool), G McAuley (West Brom), D Lafferty (Burnley), J Evans (Manchester United), A Bruce (Hull), S Davis (Southampton), O Norwood (Huddersfield), G McCann (Peterborough), N McGinn (Aberdeen), C Brunt (West Brom), S Ferguson (Birmingham), S Clingan (Kilmarnock), A Little (Rangers), P McCourt (Celtic), W Grigg (Walsall), B McKay (Inverness), M Paterson (Burnley), D Healy (Bury), J Ward (Derby). Available for Israel only: K Lafferty (Sion), C Baird (Fulham).

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