Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington was dealt a huge injury blow ahead of the double header with Estonia and Italy when defender Jonny Evans became the fourth player to withdraw from the squad.
Worthington was already lamenting the loss of retiring captain Aaron Hughes, who misses out with groin injury, and the Fulham was soon joined on the sidelines by strikers Josh McQuoid (virus) and Jamie Ward (hamstring), with Evans the latest player to drop out due to an ankle problem.
Despite playing the full 90 minutes for Manchester United against Norwich at the weekend the league leaders have raised concerns over his ankle and Northern Ireland have not summoned him to Belfast as a result.
Speaking to the BBC, Worthington said “Jonny is not here and he won’t be here,”
“He has an ongoing ankle problem. He did play at the weekend but the feeling at his club is that he does need rest and recuperation.
“We accept that and move on.”
Blackpool’s Craig Cathcart is now likely be shifted from right-back to centre-half, while uncapped Preston defender Conor McLaughlin has been added to the original squad to provide another option.
Port Vale’s Andrew Little, on loan from Rangers, and Scunthorpe’s Manchester United loanee Oliver Norwood were also summoned on Tuesday to offer cover further up the pitch.