Jamal Lewis sits out Northern Ireland’s clash with Norway
Newcastle left-back Jamal Lewis has not travelled to Oslo for Northern Ireland’s Nations League clash with Norway on Wednesday night.
The 22-year-old is the only definite absentee for the match, though Ian Baraclough is expected to make several changes for what is a third competitive international in the space of seven days.
“The only one who isn’t travelling is Jamal Lewis,” Baraclough said. “He’s gone to have a scan on his ongoing Achilles niggle, but it’s nothing to worry about. It’s improving.
“He mightn’t be able to play the two games so quickly, so it’s something I felt Newcastle had in mind for the player anyway.”
Lewis was among the players to clock up 210 minutes between the Euro 2020 qualifying play-off semi-final victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday night and Sunday’s 1-0 home defeat to Austria.
That also went for the defensive core of Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart, leaving Baraclough with difficult decisions to make as he prepares to face a Norway side that scored five at Windsor Park last month.
“It’s a balancing act and no one has had to deal with this as a manager or a group of players – a third international game within the seven days,” the manager said.
“We’re going to be sensible. We will make it competitive, but one or two players will get starts that haven’t started the two previous games as well.
“It’s important I look at these players and it’s important they get game time as well.
“We’re not fortunate enough to have a squad of players that you go and play three totally different teams and make massive changes like an England or Germany or Spain.
“There has to be a certain amount of continuity because we don’t have that amount of depth in our country.
“We’ll be prepared and the players know it’s the last game now before (the Euro 2020 qualifying play-off final against) Slovakia so it’s a chance to impress in that respect.”
Northern Ireland have been guilty of making slow starts in recent outings, and were lucky that Austria were not out of sight by half-time on Sunday night.
Baraclough has spoken about the need to address that, but added that he is not expecting either side to have the energy for an explosive display in Oslo.
“It’s going to be the third game of this window, so I can’t see it being a high-tempo game,” he said.
“It might be a different game, but certainly we’ve got to be at it from the start and we can’t be chasing the game come half-time.
“That’s something we’ve got across to the players and they’re frustrated by it as well because we tend to start games quickly and impose ourselves on the opposition.”