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Sep 8, 2009

Lafferty misses crucial Northern Ireland qualifier

Northern Ireland have announced that Kyle Lafferty has lost his battle to be fit for Wednesday's pivotal World Cup qualifier against Slovakia.

The Rangers forward sustained a knee injury after scoring in the 1-1 draw with Poland and the weekend but stated on Monday he hoped to be passed fit for the upcoming game at Windsor Park, when Northern Ireland can go top of Group Three with a win.

But Nigel Worthington will not have the 21-year-old in his squad as Lafferty has been instructed to return to Ibrox having failed to overcome his fitness concerns.

"The 21-year-old underwent a scan yesterday [Monday] on a knee injury sustained in the 1-1 draw against Poland," read a statement on the Irish Football Association's website.

"He was then assessed this morning by the team's medical staff and it was decided that no risk would be put on the player nor Glasgow Rangers or Northern Ireland - he has therefore been withdrawn from the squad for Wednesday's game. Lafferty will return immediately to his club."

Worthington believes it was right and proper that striker Kyle Lafferty returned to Rangers for treatment on his knee injury. He said: "We have lost Lafferty and Feeney at the same time. 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, 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.

Worthington said: "Martin Paterson does not have to bounce back. Martin can miss as many chances as he wants, as long as 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.''

Worthington has already drafted Accrington Stanley striker Billy Kee into his squad and West Brom midfielder Chris Brunt may well feature after missing the game against Poland due to a calf problem.

Slovakia currently top Group Three but Northern Ireland will move one point ahead of their opponents with a victory at Windsor Park. Worthington's side have played one game more than Slovakia, as well as Poland and Slovenia who lie three points behind in third and fourth.

Northern Ireland finish their qualifying campaign with a trip to Prague to face a struggling Czech Republic side on October 14.

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