Will Grigg: Wigan striker remains out of NI squad as Shay McCartan is retained

Will Grigg celebrates his only international goal against Belarus last week
Grigg scored his only international goal in the friendly win over Belarus in May of last year

Will Grigg has been left out of the Northern Ireland squad for next month's World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and the Czech Republic.

Grigg, who is on standby, missed the qualifiers against Norway and Azerbaijan in March and June because of a knee injury.

The Wigan striker has made five club appearances this season although he has only started in two EFL Cup games.

Liam Boyce is rule out by a knee injury as Gareth McAuley also misses out.

Bradford City striker Shay McCartan is preferred to Grigg after winning his first cap in the friendly against New Zealand in June.

Grigg needs game time with club - O'Neill

Grigg missed the closing three months of last season because of the knee injury and manager Michael O'Neill believes the player will benefit more from game time with his club than a bench role during the international break.

"When you come back after a long-term injury, I think it's important you play for your club before you start to play international football," said O'Neill.

"The club don't want him coming away and potentially getting injured while he is away with us.

"We have watched him and if we need to call him up, we will do so."

Boyce ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament while in action for new club Burton in a pre-season friendly while McAuley has not played since exacerbating a thigh injury in Northern Ireland's qualifier win over Azerbaijan in June.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Northern Ireland: Evans would be good signing for Man City - O'Neill

QPR's Conor Washington is recalled after he missed the last qualifier to get married and Corry Evans is another addition from the most recent squad having overcome a groin injury.

Watford defender Craig Cathcart is also back after missing the games in June but Sunderland's Paddy McNair (knee) and Nottingham Forest's Jamie Ward (calf) remain out because of injury.

Manchester City target Jonny Evans has missed West Brom's opening two games because of a hamstring injury but is included in O'Neill's 25-man squad.

Northern Ireland, who face San Marino away on 1 September before hosting the Czechs three days later, are second in Group C and on course for a play-offs spot.

With four rounds of fixtures left, world champions Germany lead the table on a maximum 18 points with Northern Ireland five points off the place and the Czechs a further four points adrift in third spot.

Northern Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: McGovern (Norwich City), Mannus (St Johnstone), Carroll (Linfield)

Defenders: Hughes (Hearts); Evans (West Brom), Cathcart (Watford), Brunt (West Brom), C McLaughlin (Millwall), Hodson (Rangers), R McLaughlin (Oldham), Thompson (Bury), D Lafferty (Sheffield United), Flanagan (Burton Albion)

Midfielders: Davis (Southampton), McGinn (Gwangju), Norwood (Brighton - on loan at Fulham), C Evans (Blackburn), Ferguson (Millwall), Dallas (Leeds), Lund (Burton Albion), Paton (St Johnstone)

Strikers: K Lafferty (Hearts), Magennis (Charlton), Washington (QPR), McCartan (Bradford City)

Top Stories