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Page last updated at 08:53 GMT, Friday, 25 March 2011

Stephen Craigan dropped for NI's qualifier in Serbia

2012 European Championship qualifying Group C - Serbia v Northern Ireland
Venue: Stadion FK Crvena Zvezda Date: Friday, 25 March Kick-off: 1930 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Ulster and online; score updates on BBC Sport website; live on Sky Sports 1


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Nigel Worthington says Serbia will be still be tough opponents despite their current injury woes

Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington has dropped Motherwell defender Stephen Craigan for Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Serbia.

Blackpool's Craig Cathcart has been drafted into the defence while other surprises see Corry Evans and Johnny Gorman included in midfield.

With Steve Davis ruled out, Chris Baird, Sammy Clingan and Chris Brunt are also included in midfield.

Kyle Lafferty is a lone striker with keeper Lee Camp earning a first cap.

Ipswich's Gareth McAuley will partner Aaron Hughes in the centre with the second of the Evans brothers, Jonny named at left back.

With experienced duo Maik Taylor and Davis already ruled out of the Group C clash at Belgrade's Crvena Zvezda Stadium, Worthington has left Craigan, Grant McCann, David Healy and Niall McGinn on the sidelines.

All four could have expected to start, while Gorman - who has yet to feature in the Wolves first team - would have anticipated a place on the bench rather than a first competitive start.

But Worthington delivered some strong words to those he left out after being disappointed by the 3-0 defeat to Scotland in the Carling Nations Cup.

"I have to stick to my word. If players can't be disciplined in the team role I said I would stick youngsters in and I've done it. Simple as that," he said.

Kids will listen to you, they'll do what you ask them to do

Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington

"It's not a case of flexing my muscles. Look at the type of the player I was for Northern Ireland; I had okay ability but I had a lot of enthusiasm and desire.

"That's what I want to see Northern Ireland players give, great desire and great enthusiasm for the country.

"Sometimes you can have an indifferent performance and you live with that, but if it's happening on more than one occasion you have to look at it and say 'I'm putting my marker on this' because at the end of the day the buck stops with me.

"Kids will listen to you, they'll do what you ask them to do, they'll give discipline and I'll go with that.

With Healy left out, Brunt will start in an advanced midfield role behind lone striker Kyle Lafferty.

Clingan will partner Chris Baird, who captains the side on the occasion of his 50th cap, in the centre of midfield.

Worthington has told his starting XI they must be prepared to be tireless to avoid being outplayed.

Despite going into the game ahead of Serbia in the standings and with a game in hand, Worthington accepts the hosts have the personnel to win handsomely if his men allow them to play.

Stephen Craigan
Stephen Craigan is left out of the Northern Ireland defence

"We have got to look to get a good start right from kick-off, go and get stuck into them like we have done to teams in the past when we have got results against quality teams," he added.

"You can name the games; Sweden away, Czech Republic home and away, Poland at home and away, Denmark at home, Slovenia away.

"They are the ones for me that are typical Nigel Worthington performances, hard working, fit for 90 minutes, give nothing up. Anything less and Serbia will definitely take the points."

Serbia goalkeeper Bojan Jorgancevic will miss the qualifier because of a knee injury while a back problem keeps out defender Slobodan Rajkovic.

The duo joined a growing list of absentees including defenders Nemanja Vidic and Pavle Ninkov as well as midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic.

Striker Nikola Zigic is also doubtful with a groin strain.

Northern Ireland have had a mixed start in the qualifying campaign, beating Slovenia, drawing with Italy and then the Faroe Islands in their last competitive outing.

Friday's game will be played behind closed doors after trouble flared at Serbia's game in Italy in October.

However, 200 Northern Ireland fans have been given special dispensation by Uefa to attend.


Northern Ireland: Camp, Cathcart, McAuley, Hughes, J Evans, C Evans, Baird (capt), Clingan, Gorman, Brunt, Lafferty



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see also
Worthington happy with NI effort
25 Mar 11 |  Football
Lafferty in fitness boost for NI
20 Mar 11 |  Football
Keeper Camp included in NI squad
14 Mar 11 |  Irish
Worthington upbeat despite defeat
09 Feb 11 |  Irish


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