There was a mixture of positive and negative news for the GAWA as the weeks tick down to the Slovakia game. Bailey Peacock-Farrell returned to the bench for their home game against Spurs in an important boost for Baraclough – his first involvement in a matchday squad since he was replaced a matter of minutes before kick-off in Oslo. However, the news was less fortunate for his replacement on that night; Trevor Carson going off injured in Motherwell’s game against Ross County and reportedly out for a number of months.
Northern Ireland’s Premier League defenders enjoyed more game time over the weekend with Jonny Evans, Stuart Dallas and Jamal Lewis all starting for their clubs. Craig Cathcart and Daniel Ballard also started for Watford and Blackpool respectively, with the latter impressing in just his second start for his new club.
Steven Davis and Jordan Jones helped Rangers to their third 2-0 win in just over a week as they extended their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership. Paddy McNair and George Saville again played for Middlesbrough in their 1-1 draw away to Cardiff City, with Saville scoring his second goal in as many games. Jordan Thompson also started as Stoke City beat Brentford 3-2.
Paul Smyth started once more ahead of Conor Washington in Charlton Athletic’s 2-0 win away to Northampton Town. Josh Magennis’ assist wasn’t enough for Grant McCann’s Hull City as they were beaten 2-1 by Peterborough United. Tom Flanagan may not have come off the bench for Sunderland, but with Luke O’Nien receiving a red card, he may well be in line to start The Black Cats’ next match. Will Grigg made a cameo from the bench in the same game but he still seems a long shot for a return to the Northern Ireland squad. One lad making a bit of noise in League Two, however, is Caolan Lavery whose brace for Walsall took his season tally to three goals in four league starts. An outside chance?
Kyle Lafferty, meanwhile, played the full 90 minutes for Reggina in their 2-2 draw away to Pordenone in Serie B. Hopefully the goals will come next.
With less than three weeks to go until the Slovakia game, Baraclough will be hoping that the good form and fitness of his squad continues. Meanwhile, the GAWA are waiting to hear whether there will be any fans allowed to attend the game. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that at least 600 will be in attendance.