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Friday 29 Mar 2019
BATW: Northern Ireland striker Will Grigg in race to be fit for EFL Trophy final

After missing the international double-header with an ankle injury Sunderland striker Will Grigg is fighting to be fit for this Sunday’s EFL Trophy final against Portsmouth at Wembley.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill had to do without the services of the 27-year-old because of an ongoing ankle complaint, but Black Cats boss Jack Ross admitted it is touch and go whether he will be available for this weekend’s showdown.

“Will required treatment in the first half of the last league match and has had this ongoing issue with his ankle injury,” explained Ross.

“We wanted him to travel and meet up with the Northern Ireland squad but they were of the same opinion as us: that he was going to struggle to be fit for their game. 

“Will not being involved (in international duty), if that helps us for being fit for the weekend then I will be delighted.”

Meanwhile, in the Premier League, defender Craig Cathcart travels to Old Trafford with eighth-placed Watford to take on a Manchester United side now under the permanent stewardship of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Goalscoring hero Jonny Evans should again be part of Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City side who will be seeking a third successive league victory when they host AFC Bournemouth on Saturday.

In the Championship, Bailey Peacock-Farrell will be back between the sticks for Leeds United in place of the suspended Kiko Casilla who was red-carded against Sheffield United before the international break.

Peacock-Farrell has not played for the club since mid-January but Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa has no qualms in starting the 22-year-old. 

“We have full confidence in his participation but we’ll see his evolution in the game,” declared Bielsa. “His performances for Northern Ireland were something positive, very positive.”

Stuart Dallas will be hoping for a first start since early December though winger Shane Ferguson will play no part as he starts a three-match suspension following his sending-off in the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Brighton. 

After three successive league defeats, Middlesbrough will be looking to get back to winning ways when they entertain high-flying Norwich City in Saturday’s early evening kick-off at the Riverside Stadium. 

Paddy McNair, who was a revelation in the middle of the park against Estonia and Belarus, will be hoping he has impressed manager Tony Pulis sufficiently to earn a starting role against the Canaries, who will have the ever improving Jamal Lewisat left-back. 

Bolton Wanderers, who are eight points from safety in the Championship, will be looking for Josh Magennis to replicate his international goalscoring form as they seek only a fourth away win of the season in their clash with QPR at Loftus Road.

After four defeats in five League One outings, Accrington Stanley will be hoping Paul Smyth and Billy Kee can help ease their relegation worries when they play Fleetwood Town at the Crown Ground.  

Elsewhere in the division, winger Gavin Whyte is an injury doubt for Oxford United’s home encounter with Wycombe Wanderers.

The former Crusaders player missed both internationals last week with a thigh strain, though midfielder Mark Sykes is available for selection. 

After two impressive displays for Northern Ireland international skipper Steven Davis will be hoping to get the nod from Rangers’ boss Steven Gerrard to start the Old Firm clash at Celtic Park on Sunday. 

Both Gareth McAuley, who is now fit, and Kyle Lafferty, who got some crucial game time under his belt last week, could play some part in what is essentially a title decider this weekend. 

Winger Niall McGinn will be seeking to score for the third successive game as third-placed Aberdeen make the trip to Tynecastle to play Hearts, Jam Tarts’ defender Michael Smith is still missing, however, with a thigh problem.  

Finally, Falkirk boss Ray McKinnon believes Shayne Lavery’s two goals for Northern Ireland U21s last week will boost the 19-year-old’s confidence ahead of the trip to Inverness on Saturday.

“Shayne was struggling a little bit with injury before he left and it was touch and go for him,” admitted McKinnon. 

“He was actually wanting to stay here but we encouraged him to go and play some games and get some goals and to be fair he has done that and against a couple of decent teams too in Mexico and Bulgaria.

“Hopefully that is a boost to him and he comes back with a bit of a spring in his step because he’s a talented young boy and hopefully he can give us something between now and the end of the season."