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Lafferty's absence leaves Worthington short up top

The Northern Ireland manager, Nigel Worthington, believes it was right and proper that his striker Kyle Lafferty returned to Rangers for treatment on his knee injury.

Lafferty indicated on Monday that he might be fit to face Slovakia in his side's crucial World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park tonight. However, the Northern Ireland medical staff thought it was too much of a risk – and the player headed back to Ibrox yesterday.

It is a blow for Lafferty, who made the breakthrough in the 1-1 draw against Poland at the weekend. With Warren Feeney also out injured, manager Nigel Worthington is short on options up front.

"We have lost Lafferty and Feeney at the same time," Worthington said. "But I do not think about the ones going out only the ones coming in. Kyle has gone back to Glasgow. It would not be right for him to be tested, or Rangers. It would have been unfair on them and ourselves. He will have on-going treatment, and we hope he will be fit in a few weeks."

Worthington looks likely to start against Slovakia with the team that finished in Poland, with Martin Paterson partnering David Healy in attack. Paterson squandered a couple of good chances at the Slaski Stadium – but according to the manager, that is par for the course.

"Martin Paterson does not have to bounce back," Worthington said. "Martin can miss as many chances as he wants, as long as he works hard for the team. If he does that I will always have time for him – and the other bit will come. To go and miss a chance is part and parcel of being a striker."

The West Bromwich Albion midfielder Chris Brunt and Fulham full-back Chris Baird are both available again, after being ruled out of the Poland match through suspension and injury respectively.