Northern Ireland: Stuart Dallas joins Jamie Ward in pulling out of Azerbaijan qualifier

Stuart Dallas in action against San Marino last month
Stuart Dallas played against San Marino last month but then missed the defeat in Germany

Leeds midfielder Stuart Dallas has become the latest withdrawal from the Northern Ireland squad for Friday's World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan.

Dallas, 25, has returned to his club because of a calf injury.

Forward Jamie Ward is already out after fracturing his wrist while playing for Burton Albion on Saturday.

Manager Michael O'Neill has not opted to call up any replacements at this stage for the game against the second-placed team in Group C.

Ward sustained the injury in Saturday's game against Barnsley, while Dallas has not played since sustaining his calf problem during last month's international break.

Dallas played in the win over San Marino at Windsor Park on October 8 but was then forced to miss the defeat by table toppers Germany three days later.

After three rounds of fixtures, Azerbaijan stand on seven points, three ahead of Northern Ireland, with Germany leading the table on a maximum nine points.

Northern Ireland's remaining 2018 World Cup qualifiers
11 NovemberAzerbaijan (home)
26 March 2017Norway (home)
10 JuneAzerbaijan (away)
1 SeptemberSan Marino (away)
4 SeptemberCzech Republic (home)
5 OctoberGermany (home)
8 OctoberNorway (away)

Ward has started Northern Ireland's Past six competitive games and scored in the 4-0 win over San Marino.

The striker's absence could increase Kyle Lafferty's chances of earning a recall.

Lafferty scored within four minutes of coming on as a substitute in Norwich City's 3-2 defeat by Leeds United in the Championship on Saturday - his first league goal since January 2015.

Chris Brunt and Will Grigg are back in Northern Ireland's squad for the World Cup qualifier.

Brunt, 31, missed Euro 2016 because of a serious knee injury sustained in February but he has returned to West Brom duty in recent weeks.

Wigan's Grigg asked to be left out of recent squads for personal reasons.

Northern Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: M McGovern (Norwich City), A Mannus (St Johnstone), T Carson (Hartlepool United)

Defenders: A Hughes (Kerala Blasters), G McAuley (West Brom), J Evans (West Brom), C Brunt (West Brom), R McGivern (Shrewsbury Town), C McLaughlin (Fleetwood Town), L Hodson (Rangers), T Flanagan (Burton Albion)

Midfielder: S Davis (Southampton), N McGinn (Aberdeen), O Norwood (Brighton), C Evans (Blackburn Rovers), S Ferguson (Millwall), P McNair (Sunderland), P Paton (St Johnstone), M Lund (Rochdale).

Strikers: K Lafferty (Norwich City), J Magennis (Charlton Athletic), C Washington (QPR), W Grigg (Wigan Athletic)

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