Middlesbrough will be hoping that Paddy McNair is rested for Northern Ireland’s Nations League clash with Romania this week, after he played the full 90 minutes in Austria on Sunday evening.
The versatile Boro star provided the assist in Vienna to put his side ahead, just three days after their European Championship qualifying heartbreak.
But two late Austria goals meant Northern Ireland succumbed to a 2-1 defeat as they remain winless in their Nations League group.
And with very little riding on Wednesday’s home clash with Romania in Belfast, Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock will be hoping the green and white army ring the changes for the game and rest McNair.
Manager Ian Baraclough did make changes in Austria as he looked towards his country’s future stars, but McNair still played the full 90 despite being an injury concern after Thursday’s extra-time defeat to Slovakia.
McNair was taken off in that one while clutching his left hamstring, but in a boost to everyone watching nervously on Teesside, he was deemed fit to travel and play on Sunday.
But having previously complained about the fixture scheduling and the demands on players that would lead to muscle injuries, Warnock is likely to hope Baraclough takes no such risk with his star man on Wednesday evening in Belfast, with the best Baraclough’s side can hope for is a win big enough to swing the goal difference in their favour to move them off the bottom of the group, but with qualification beyond the group stage no longer a possibility.
Ahead of the international break, Warnock even joked he hoped Northern Ireland won their first important game before resting McNair and his international team-mate George Saville for the other two games in a competition he described as ‘meaningless’.
While McNair will be available for selection in Belfast, Saville left the group after the defeat to Slovakia for personal reasons, having previously missed Boro’s league draw with Brentford too.
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Middlesbrough fans are also hoping Northern Ireland rest McNair.
On Twitter, one wrote: “Played the full game. Hopefully left out on Wednesday,” while another added, “He shouldn’t be risked!”
Middlesbrough host Norwich City on Saturday at the Riverside and McNair has been key for Warnock’s side this term – playing at centre-back of the best defence in the Championship, with the Boro boss describing him as the best player in the division.
He’s played all but 45 minutes of every game this season, only missing the first half of the second round Carabao Cup defeat to Barnsley back in September.
-- to www.gazettelive.co.uk