Michael O’Neill has all-but ruled out asking Sam Clucas to fill the hole at left-back left by an injury to Morgan Fox.
Fox could be out for six weeks with a hamstring injury and O’Neill has had to change system to suit his options, although Josh Tymon (groin) is hoping to be back in contention for tomorrow’s visit of Bournemouth.
O’Neill said: “He’s a left-sided player who has played there on occasion but I think it’s far from his favourite position. I think we’ll have to solve that in another way, to be honest.
“I think Sam gives us a lot as an eight, where we’ve played him. Last season his numbers were probably the highest of his career with 11 goals playing in the Championship.
“We would lose the potential to have that kind of season if we opted to play him at left-back.
“I think sometimes we’ve had to do that in the early part of my reign – we had to make changes in games and Sam’s position changed – but I think we get the best out of him by consistently playing him as a number eight on the left side of a midfield three.”
The manager is trying to find a system which gets the best out of his available players and thinks three in the middle suits returning Joe Allen too.
He said: “We’ve been a little bit restricted because of Morgan’s injury and also Josh Tymon had an injury for the game on Tuesday as well. We’re a little bit restricted in what we can do and the system we can play.
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“We have to be mindful of players we’re bringing in too, for example Joe Allen. We’ve found it better to play Joe in a midfield three as opposed to a two.
“Those are all factors of when you put the team together and ultimately we’re trying to get the squad in the best shape possible for the second half of the season, to get through these games and put ourselves in a strong position when we can certainly replicate and improve on the first half of the season.”