Morgan Fox is expected to miss at least a big chunk of January with a hamstring injury – highlighting a hole in the Stoke City at left-back.
Fox missed today’s 0-0 draw at Coventry City after limping out against Spurs in mid-week – and that one injury forced Michael O’Neill to change his shape from four at the back to a 3-5-2 with James McClean on at wing-back.
The 27-year-old has been a fixture in the team since being brought in to fill the left-back vacancy in the summer and his absence is sharply felt.
O’Neill said: “It’s a little bit early to say. He’s had a scan (on his hamstring) and he’s not going to be back in a couple of weeks.
“I wouldn’t want to put an exact time frame on it but the indications we’ve been given suggest it could be four to six weeks.”
O’Neill inherited a mess at left-back, with his predecessor having pushed out Erik Pieters and replaced him with veteran Stephen Ward, who had an injury-scarred season before being released.
The transfer window opens on January 2 to give Stoke an opportunity to bring in competition and cover if they can find the right man.
“The left-back position has been a problem for the club since before I arrived,” said O’Neill.
“Last season we ended up with Bruno Martins Indi playing there a lot of the time. Today we played with three at the back and James at wing-back.
“I think James and Josh Tymon are both more suited to playing as a wing-back rather than full-back.
“That’s the situation we find ourselves in. We compensated for it quite well today with three at the back, who I thought were quite solid as well.
“We’ll just see what happens in January to see if that’s something we need to address.”