Michael O’Neill is not expecting any of Stoke City’s injured set to return to his match day squad this weekend when they take on Middlesbrough.
Stoke are without senior keepers Adam Davies (knee) and Angus Gunn (ankle) while Joe Allen is stepping up his return from an Achilles rupture.
Steven Fletcher (knee) limped out of the 3-2 defeat to Norwich and Lee Gregory (groin) and John Obi Mikel (calf) hobbled off in the 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednseday while Jordan Thompson (ankle) has been missing since the international break.
Mikel is very unlikely to feature against his former club.
“We’re being stretched, we’re being challenged,” said O’Neill in his press conference this afternoon.
“John Obi’s still an extreme doubt, Steven Fletcher, Jordan Thompson… it’s unlikely that we’ll have any of those players back for the game tomorrow.
“We’ll monitor them later today and see where they’re at but I think we have to be mindful of the schedule as well and not rush people back too soon.
“The risk is you lose them to longer and we want to avoid that situation going forward.
“We are a wee bit stretched in terms of players that are out.”
Niki Maenpaa was brought in to help the goalkeeper situation – but subsequently suffered a hand injury that has required surgery.
Nathan Broome, the 18-year-old England youth keeper, also requires shoulder surgeryy.
Stoke have moved to bring in Andy Lonergan, who was on the bench for the 1-0 win at Wycombe on Wednesday.
O’Neill said: “Andy is a very experienced keeper. He’s played at a good level in his career and was latterly at Liverpool and obviously training at a very good level, although he didn’t play. He knew what his role was going in there and that’s one of support.
“The reality is you couldn’t get through and take a chance with just two young goalkeepers.
“Harry Souttar is a perfect example. If that was to happen with a goalkeeper, we’d suddenly only have one fit goalkeeper to play and that’s far from ideal.
“We need it for training purposes as well. You need three goalkeepers to get training as you’d like it and to be able to give your starting goalkeeper a break at times in training.
“It was very important we brought someone in but unfortunately Niki Maenpaa got injured on the first day and obviously young Broomey has to go for surgery on his shoulder and the two senior goalkeepers are both injured as well.
“It’s an incredible set of circumstances to leave us where we are and certainly Andy coming in has helped us in that department.”
Ryan Shawcross was back on the bench at Wycombe too, the first time he has been involved in the match day squad this season after coming through two under-23s games unscathed.
O’Neill said: “Ryan has come through the two under-23s games. He probably does need, potentially, another one but we’ll just to manage that and see how we are in terms of our own injury situation.
“When he’s on the bench he’s in contention to come in and play and that won’t change tomorrow.
“I think the big thing for Ryan is that he’s trained consistently now for the best part of four weeks and not missed a single session.
“That was something he was struggling with unfortunately. He was coming in and he was reacting to maybe harder sessions and recovering to get a bit of rhythm into his training, which affects his comeback.
“But I think he’s looking as good as he has done since I came in. We expect him to push and try to push his way into the team going forward.”