Will Grigg out of NI squad to face Norway but Craig Cathcart returns

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Michael O'Neill names Northern Ireland squad for 'massive' Norway game

Wigan Athletic striker Will Grigg has been ruled out of Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifier against Norway in Belfast on 26 March witha knee injury.

Watford defender Craig Cathcart is named in a 24-man squad after missing the first four games of the campaign with a groin problem.

Burton Albion defender Tom Flanagan is the only uncapped player included.

Shane Ferguson is suspended but Corry Evans is chosen despite having been out for two months with a groin complaint.

How they stand in the group

Blackburn Rovers manager Tony Mowbray indicated on Thursday that he has no problem with Evans potentially playing a part in the Windsor Park encounter in a fortnight's time despite not having featured for his club since 2 January.

Evans has started Northern Ireland's last two World Cup qualifiers.

Linfield goalkeeper Roy Carroll is preferred to Trevor Carson as the third goalkeeper in manager Michael O'Neill's squad for the crucial game.

"Our squad is pretty consistent. It's a big boost to have Craig Cathcart back. He's very important to the squad as having four fit centre backs gives me better options for formation," said O'Neill.

"Daniel Lafferty was close to the squad - he is on standby. I don't want him to miss club games.

"Corry Evans had a groin operation before the Euros. He hasn't played at all but is training and should play a game on Monday.

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

"He had a great Euros and I like having him in the squad, but it's a big ask as he hasn't been playing. Blackburn have been very supportive of him wanting to join up with the squad."

Northern Ireland lie second in Group C, five points behind Germany, with two wins, one draw and one defeat from the first four matches of their campaign.

Norway are in a disappointing fifth place, having picked up just three points from four games.

Northern Ireland's 3-0 friendly defeat by Croatia on 15 November brought to an end a 10-game unbeaten home record, O'Neill's side having previously won eight and drawn two at Windsor Park, conceding only three goals in the process.

Their last reverse in a competitive fixture at home was a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Portugal in a World Cup qualifier in September 2013.

Northern Ireland squad to face Norway:

Goalkeepers - Michael McGovern (Norwich City), Alan Mannus (St Johnstone), Roy Carroll (Linfield).

Defenders - Aaron Hughes (Hearts), Gareth McAuley (West Brom), Jonny Evans (West Brom), Chris Brunt (West Brom), Craig Cathcart (Watford), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood Town), Lee Hodson (Rangers), Ryan McLaughlin (Oldham Athletic), Tom Flanagan (Burton Albion).

Midfielders - Steven Davis (Southampton), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Oliver Norwood (Brighton), Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest), Stuart Dallas (Leeds Utd), Paul Paton (St Johnstone), Matthew Lund (Rochdale).

Forwards - Kyle Lafferty (Norwich City), Josh Magennis (Charlton Athletic), Conor Washington (QPR), Liam Boyce (Ross County).

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