With the UEFA Nations League fast approaching, Michael O’Neill named his panel for the upcoming fixtures. As such, I thought it best to have a look and see how our boys performed this past weekend for their clubs. Across the squad, there were no fewer than five instances of Northern Ireland players facing off against each other.
Joy for Kyle Lafferty, despair for Trevor Carson
Kyle Lafferty was no doubt the success of the weekend with 2 goals following his return to Rangers. This was not a positive for Trevor Carson (Motherwell), however, as he was on the receiving end of Kyle’s wrath in a 3-3 draw. Another contender for the goalkeeping shirt had a better day between the sticks, Leeds’ Bailey Peacock-Farrell keeping a clean sheet in a 3-0 victory over Jamal Lewis’ Norwich City, Lewis having also played the full 90 minutes.
Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic) couldn’t find the net despite playing the full match in a 1-0 loss to QPR. Conor Washington came off the bench for the final 10 minutes of that fixture. There were similar blanks drawn for Liam Boyce (Burton Albion) and Josh Magennis (Bolton Wanderers) in 3-0 losses to Oxford United and Sheffield United respectively. Oliver Norwood did feature in that winning Sheffield United side, putting in a fine performance over 90 minutes.
It was a delight to see Craig Cathcart’s fitness returning as he completed a full match in a 2-0 win for Watford over Crystal Palace. There was also a full 90 minutes for Conor McLaughlin in Millwall’s 1-0 loss to Rotherham. Corry Evans started Blackburn’s 1-0 win against Brentford before being substituted in the 78th minute. Michael Smith was also substituted in Hearts’ 1-0 win over compatriot Jordan Jones’ Kilmarnock, Jones unable to affect the result despite playing the whole game. Paddy McNair featured for just 4 minutes from the bench in Middlesbrough’s 1-0 win over West Brom.
Benchwarmers of the week
Jonny Evans and Steven Davis were denied a Premier League face-off as they were unused substitutes for Leicester City and Southampton respectively. Michael McGovern (Norwich City), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen) and Shane Ferguson (Millwall) were also unable to impact their games as they remained on their benches for the duration.
Aaron Hughes (Hearts), Stuart Dallas (Leeds United) and George Saville (Millwall) did not make the matchday squads for their clubs while Gareth McAuley remains a free agent as speculation over his future continues to mount.
A battle of the stoppers
Northern Ireland in recent history has never relied too heavily on selecting players solely on their club form. Many players have excelled on the international stage despite limited appearances under their current employers. The area of the squad that is of deep interest to me is the goalkeeping situation though, as Peacock-Farrell continues to excel in an impressive Leeds United side. Will Michael throw his trust behind the young stopper for the upcoming Bosnia-Herzegovina match?
The NI squad in full
— Northern Ireland (@NorthernIreland) August 23, 2018