Hughes in for NI

 

Michael Hughes will play for Northern Ireland in tomorrow's Euro 2000 qualifier against Moldova despite a nagging hernia injury. Manager Lawrie McMenemy feared Hughes would have to pull out of the Windsor Park clash when he heard that he had been substituted during Wimbledon's defeat against Chelsea on Saturday.

Hughes did not train yesterday, but he has assured McMenemy he will grit his teeth and play. "He's actually playing games, but not training at the moment," said McMenemy. "In the early part of the week he takes days to get over the previous game and then as he comes towards the end of the week he starts light training. All his effort goes into matches."

Unfortunately Northern Ireland's other casualties are too injured to contemplate Hughes' heroics. Newcastle defender Aaron Hughes, who strained a calf muscle on Saturday, became the fourth player to pull out following the withdrawals of Kevin Horlock, Jim Whitley and George O'Boyle.

McMenemy has called in Northern Ireland Under-21 captain Danny Griffin and Luton's in-form striker Phil Gray, and he admits he may have to reconstruct his backline.

Finland stopped Turkey running away with Group Three by beating them last month and Northern Ireland can join them at the top on six points if they defeat Moldova, who have only won one competitive away game and have lost both their opening matches.