HEARTS star Kyle Lafferty has pulled out of the Northern Ireland squad for Saturday’s friendly with South Korea due to a thigh injury.
The striker, who has scored 20 goals in 67 caps, had been called up along with Tynecastle team-mate Aaron Hughes.
Lafferty is one of four players to withdraw from Michael O’Neill’s squad.
Aberdeen attacker Niall McGinn is out with a groin issue, while midfielders Steven Davis (hamstring) and Stuart Dallas (thigh) are also ruled out.
It means boss O’Neill could turn to the Northern Irish Under-21s to swell his squad for the game at Windsor Park as the youngsters have home fixtures with Spain and Iceland on Thursday and Monday.
However, O’Neill is unsure if he would actually select any of Ian Baraclough’s players to feature given the seniors’ game is sandwiched between two huge qualifiers in the Under-21s’ bid to reach Euro 2019.
Explaining his injury situation, O’Neill said: “We have to be careful with the players given the time of year it is and the nature of the game.
“The game will provide an opportunity for some of those players like (Kilmarnock’s Jordan Jones) and Jamal Lewis and one or two others.
“The Under-21s play on Thursday so there is always the opportunity to add one or two of those players from that squad into the senior game as well.”