Ben Reeves named in Northern Ireland squad for Cyprus friendly

Ben Reeves

Uncapped Milton Keynes Dons midfielder Ben Reeves has been named in the Northern Ireland squad to face Cyprus in a friendly in Nicosia on 5 March.

The 22-year-old former Southampton player is the only new face in manager Michael O'Neill's squad.

Forwards Dean Shiels, Pat McCourt and Kyle Lafferty return, but injured defender Jonny Evans and QPR centre-back Aaron Hughes are not included.

Chris Baird, Corry Evans, Lee Hodson and Jonny Steele are also absent.

Defender Baird has been out since November with an ankle injury, having signed a short-term deal with Reading, which expired in January.

Corry Evans has recently returned to action with Blackburn Rovers after missing four months because of ankle ligament damage, while fellow midfielder Steele is playing for New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer, whose season started last week.

Michael O'Neill wants to integrate Ben Reeves into the squad

Shiels has shown good form for Rangers in recent weeks while Palermo frontman Lafferty returns after serving a suspension and missing the friendly against Turkey in November because his wife was about to give birth.

Reeves qualifies for Northern Ireland because his grandparents hail from Fermanagh.

Former skipper Hughes misses the fixture for "personal reasons".

"We have a few missing so we have a chance to bring in some players who haven't been involved in recent times," said O'Neill.

"Ben is a young player who is rebuilding his career at MK Dons after being released by Southampton.

"He's had a good season and has scored 10 goals. It's important to the chance to integrate him and give us more resources to pick from."

O'Neill will use next week's match as preparation for the Euro 2016 qualifiers, which begin with a trip to face Hungary on 7 September.

The squad will play further friendlies against Uruguay, in Montevideo on 30 May, and Chile, in Valparaiso on 4 June.

Northern Ireland squad:

Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll (Olympiakos), Alan Mannus (St Johnstone), Michael McGovern (Falkirk).

Defenders: Gareth McAuley (West Brom), Daniel Lafferty (Burnley), Rory McArdle (Bradford City), Ryan McGivern (Hibernian), Craig Cathcart (Blackpool), Alex Bruce (Hull City).

Midfielders: Steven Davis (Southampton), Oliver Norwood (Huddersfield Town), Shane Ferguson (Newcastle Utd, on loan at Birmingham City), Chris Brunt (West Bromwich Albion), Sammy Clingan (Kilmarnock), Pat McCourt (Barnsley), Ben Reeves (MK Dons).

Forwards: Billy McKay (Inverness C T), Martin Paterson (Huddersfield Town), Jamie Ward (Derby County), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Dean Shiels (Rangers), Kyle Lafferty (Palermo).

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