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Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Johnson to lead Northern Ireland

World Cup qualifier: Northern Ireland v Poland
Venue: Windsor Park Date: Saturday, 28 March Kick-off: 1715 GMT Coverage: Live on Radio Ulster medium wave and BBC Sport Website, live text commentary online and score updates on BBC Radio 5 Live, highlights on BBC1 NI 2220 GMT, Live on Sky Sports 1


Worthington aims for crucial six points

Damien Johnson will mark his 50th cap by leading Northern Ireland in their vital World Cup game against Poland.

The Birmingham City midfielder will take the armband from regular captain Aaron Hughes for his milestone match.

Manager Nigel Worthington said: "I am pleased for Damien, as are the players, that he has reached his 50th cap."

Meanwhile, with Kyle Lafferty and Martin Paterson ruled out, Warren Feeney seems certain to partner David Healy in the group Three qualifier.


Uncapped duo Andrew Little and Jamie Ward are the only other strikers in the squad.

The only major selection issue appears to be in midfield.

Johnson and Sammy Clingan will start while other contenders are Grant McCann, Chris Brunt and Chris Baird.

It is likely that Clingan will be partnered in central midfield by Scunthorpe's McCann with Johnson and Brunt occupying the flanks.

Regular central midfielder Steve Davis is suspended for Saturday's game along with George McCartney and Lafferty, who is in any case, out for six weeks because of injury.

With McCartney ruled out, fit-again Manchester United star Jonny Evans is expected to return to the Northern Ireland defence.

Taylor knows NI face make or break week

Davis and McCartney will both be available for Wednesday's qualifier against Slovenia at Windsor Park.

However, Northern Ireland's hopes of World Cup qualification would already be in tatters by then if they lose against the Poles on Saturday.

West Brom midfielder Brunt is hoping his positive reaction to being dropped by Northern Ireland will result in a recall on Saturday.

Brunt shrugged off his surprise at not making the team against San Marino by coming off the bench and scoring his first goal for the province in a 3-0 victory last month.

That put Northern Ireland's campaign back on track and they could top Group 3 on Saturday for a couple of hours at least with victory in Belfast.

Brunt is anxious to be part of manager Nigel Worthington's plans this weekend.

"It was disappointing not to be in the team against San Marino, especially as I have been playing most weeks in the Premier League.

Every player knows they are going to be left out at some stage in their career

Chris Brunt

"But it is not the first time it has happened and I am experienced enough to deal with a situation like this.

"Every player knows they are going to be left out at some stage in their career. It is how you respond that matters.

"You have to move on. I am a pretty laid back person generally so I put my disappointment out of my head pretty quickly.

"I was pleased to score and happy with my performance. Hopefully I can get a start in the next couple of games."

Northern Ireland squad (v Poland)

Goalkeepers: Taylor (Birmingham City), Mannus (Linfield), Tuffey (Partick Thistle).

Defenders: Craigan (Motherwell), Hughes (Fulham), McAuley (Ipswich Town), McGivern (Manchester City), Baird (Fulham), Evans (Manchester United).

Midfielders: McCann (Scunthorpe United), Brunt (West Brom), McGinn (Celtic), Clingan (Norwich City), Johnson (Birmingham City), Shiels (Doncaster Rovers).

Strikers: Healy (Sunderland), Feeney (Dundee United on loan), Little (Rangers), Ward (Sheffield United).

Added for game v Slovenia: McCartney (Sunderland), Davis (Rangers)

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see also
NI fans crucial for us - Hughes
26 Mar 09 |  Internationals
McCourt to miss N Ireland matches
20 Mar 09 |  Internationals
Striker Ward in N Ireland call-up
12 Mar 09 |  Internationals

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