sport

NI call up MK Dons' Reeves

Uncapped MK Dons midfielder Ben Reeves has been called up by Northern Ireland for next month's friendly in Cyprus.

Reeves, 22, is the only new face in manager Michael O'Neill's 22-man squad for the March 5 match in Nicosia.

The English-born player, who started his career with Southampton, has not previously represented Northern Ireland at age-group level but wins a place in the senior squad having scored 10 times in 31 club appearances this season.

"Ben is a player I've known was eligible, through his grandmother, for about 12 months or so, since he was at Southampton," said O'Neill.

"He struggled to make the breakthrough there into the big time, but they are such a good grounding for youngsters and their academy is recognised for the quality players it is producing.

"Ben is rebuilding at MK Dons now, playing well and scoring goals from midfield.

"I've been monitoring him closely for three or four months and he's had some really good games in that time. I went to meet him personally and he's decided to throw his hat in with Northern Ireland, which is good news."

O'Neill is without injured Manchester United centre-half Jonny Evans, with former captain Aaron Hughes and the unattached Chris Baird also missing from the defence.

But the backline is bolstered by the return of West Brom's Gareth McAuley, who missed his country's previous two matches through suspension and personal reasons.

Palermo striker Kyle Lafferty is also back, selected for the first time since being sent off for a reckless challenge in the 4-2 defeat by Portugal last September.

The squad lacks a specialist right-back with Reeves' MK Dons team-mate Lee Hodson out injured, but Hull City's Alex Bruce is the most versatile option among six defenders.

Barnsley winger Pat McCourt and Rangers striker Dean Shiels are both selected, having been peripheral figures during O'Neill's first qualifying campaign.

Northern Ireland face Greece, Hungary, Romania, Finland, and the Faroe Islands in Group F in Euro 2016 qualifying.

Northern Ireland squad: R Carroll (Olympiakos), A Mannus (St Johnstone), M McGovern (Falkirk), D Lafferty (Burnley), R McGivern (Hibernian), G McAuley (West Brom), R McArdle (Bradford), C Cathcart (Blackpool), A Bruce (Hull), S Ferguson (Newcastle), S Davis (Capt, Southampton), O Norwood (Huddersfield), C Brunt (West Brom), S Clingan (Kilmarnock), P McCourt (Barnsley), B Reeves (MK Dons), N McGinn (Aberdeen), B McKay (Inverness), M Paterson (Huddersfield), J Ward (Derby), D Shiels (Rangers), K Lafferty (Palermo).