McIlroy loses Gillespie

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The Independent Football

Keith Gillespie has become the second player to withdraw from Northern Ireland's squad for Saturday's opening World Cup qualifying match against Malta. The Blackburn winger has an ankle injury and joins Neil Lennon on the sidelines.

Keith Gillespie has become the second player to withdraw from Northern Ireland's squad for Saturday's opening World Cup qualifying match against Malta. The Blackburn winger has an ankle injury and joins Neil Lennon on the sidelines.

Northern Ireland's coach, Sammy McIlroy, will now decide overnight whether to call up a replacement from the Under-21 squad or his stand-by list. He said: "Keith Gillespie is out. He picked up an ankle injury playing against Rochdale last week and he would not be ready in time. With Neil and Keith out, my squad is down to 18 and I'll be sitting down to decide what we do now."

Lennon flew to Belfast yesterday to have his groin injury checked by the Northern Ireland team doctor, who confirmed that he would not be fit to face Malta.

Another Leicester midfielder, Muzzy Izzet, will miss Turkey's World Cup qualifier against Moldova in Istanbul on Saturday through injury. Izzet made his debut for Turkey during Euro 2000 after failing to win recognition by England.

Manchester United's Jaap Stam, who pulled a hamstring against West Ham on Saturday, and Barcelona's Marc Overmars have been forced out of the Netherlands' qualifier against the Republic of Ireland in Amsterdam on Saturday through injury. Overmars has been struggling with a knee injury since leaving Arsenal for Spain.

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