Charlton striker Conor Washington has been ruled out of Northern Ireland’s opening World Cup qualifier against Italy through injury and is expected to miss all three upcoming fixtures.
The 28-year-old was substituted just a few minutes into the Addicks’ Sky Bet League One draw with AFC Wimbledon on Saturday and was having a scan on a leg injury on Monday.
Ian Baraclough has called up Linfield striker Shayne Lavery to replace Washington in his squad as Northern Ireland prepare to face Italy in Parma on Thursday before a friendly against the United States and a qualifier against Bulgaria back at Windsor Park.
Former Everton trainee Lavery, who has five caps for Northern Ireland, has scored 19 goals for Linfield in the Irish League this season, and the 22-year-old was on the scoresheet against Crusaders at the weekend.
“Conor was having a scan back at his club this afternoon and we’ve brought in Shayne fearing the worst on Conor,” Baraclough said.
“I’ve been keeping in touch with (Lavery) and he’s been hitting the back of the net regularly, so he’ll come straight in for (Washington).
“He’s determined to get the best out of what he’s got. He’s got the tools to go back to England or Scotland and play full-time over there. He’s hitting the back of the net regularly and that adds to the firepower that we’ve got.”
Depending on the outcome of Monday’s scan, it is understood there is an outside chance that Washington could return ahead of Sunday’s friendly with the United States or next Wednesday’s match against Bulgaria.
Baraclough has also added Liverpool goalkeeper Liam Hughes to the group, handing the 19-year-old his first senior call up as he expands the squad to 27 players.
“He’s had an unbelievable year going from Celtic to Liverpool and he’s sat on the bench for Liverpool for one of the games,” Baraclough said.
“He has to take his chances when they come and this is a great experience for him, he’ll get 10 days with the full squad.
“He’s a sponge, he wants to learn and it’s the only way, being in with the big boys.”
Hughes is one of four goalkeepers now in the group, led by regular number one Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Celtic’s Conor Hazard.
However, with Derry City’s Nathan Gartside also on his first senior call-up, the four keepers have only 20 caps between them – 19 belonging to Peacock-Farrell – in the absence of the injured Michael McGovern and Trevor Carson.