There is just one more weekend of club football until Northern Ireland face a tough triple header; and many of the squad continue to build momentum as we approach the beginning of a new campaign.
Jonny Evans had a quiet day at the office as Leicester City attempted to hang on in the title race with a 5-0 win against Sheffield United. Stuart Dallas helped his Leeds side to an impressive point at home to on-form Chelsea. Our other Premier League stars, Peacock-Farrell and Lewis, watched their teams from the bench over the weekend.
It was a great weekend for our Northern Irish contingent at Sunderland as they beat Tranmere Rovers 1-0 in the Papa John’s Trophy Final at Wembley. Whilst Jordan Jones was already missing due to a knock, we now have additional concern over Tom Flanagan with Conor McLaughlin having to replace him just before half-time in what may be an untimely injury lay-off. Carl Winchester was cup-tied, in case you’re wondering!
Paddy McNair scored his second goal in four games as Middlesbrough beat Michael O’Neill’s Stoke City side 3-0. GeorgeSaville and Jordan Thompson were unused substitutes. However, on Tuesday night, McNair was forced off with an injured knee so we await further reports on how he’s doing. Gavin Whyte and Josh Magennis both featured as Grant McCann’s Hull City beat Oxford United 2-0.
Conor Washington scored his third goal in two games as Charlton Athletic drew 1-1 with Shrewsbury Town before scoring the winner in Charlton’s 3-2 comeback win against Bristol Rovers.
In Scotland, four out of five goals were scored by Northern Irish men as Billy McKay’s Ross County came out on top against Kyle Lafferty’s Kilmarnock in a 3-2 victory. Boyce and Smith both contributed to Hearts’ 2-0 win against Ayr which extended their lead at the top of the Championship to 15 points. McKay has certainly brought himself back into the reckoning with a decent return this season.
Later this week we will know who is in Ian Baraclough’s third squad as Northern Ireland boss, with reports that Accrington Stanley’s Dion Charles could be in line for a first call-up. Until then, it is encouraging to see many of the squad getting important game time ahead of the fixtures versus Italy, USA and Bulgaria respectively.