Italy v Northern Ireland: Worthington’s tenure could be brought to finish against Italy

Nigel Worthington is still enjoying life as Northern Ireland manager, despite a run of results that is likely to cost him the job sooner rather than later.

Since beating the Faroe Islands 4-0 in August to raise hopes of securing a Euro 2012 play-off place, Worthington’s side have lost to Serbia at home and suffered back-to-back humblings at the hands of Estonia.

A 4-1 mauling in Tallinn was followed by a 2-1 reverse at Windsor Park on Friday, with the visiting side having much the better of the play in a dominant second half.

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Their final Group C fixture is away to Italy tomorrow and as ever Worthington has significantly less than a full-strength squad to choose from.

Aaron Hughes, Jonny Evans, Josh McQuoid and Jamie Ward were early injury withdrawals from the original 23-man party and were joined by goalkeeper Lee Camp and midfielder Grant McCann after the Estonia game.

With first-choice striker Kyle Lafferty also out suspended, the visit to Pescara threatens to be one of the toughest matches of Worthington’s four-and-a-half-year reign.

With his contract up at the end of the year and no friendlies scheduled until February, it could also be his last.

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But despite the pressure mounting on him, not least from fans, Worthington refuses to be downbeat.

“Of course there is frustration and yes I am disappointed (by results), but I try to look at the whole picture,” he said.

“You see what you have to work with, the numbers you have, the people who aren’t there for one reason or another, but that’s international football.

“You can’t buy in, sell out or loan someone. You make the most of it and it’s as simple as that. No excuses. That is the game and I’ve been in it long enough to get on with it.

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“No one likes losing but I enjoy this game too much to let disappointment or frustration take that away.”

West Brom defender Gareth McAuley is desperate to sign off the current campaign with a famous win, but knows it will be a huge task.

The centre-half expects some of the younger members of the squad to be given a chance in the absence of the injured players and hopes they can help contribute to a positive result.

“We need to regroup quickly,” he said.

“Obviously with the next set of (World Cup) qualifiers coming up, a few younger players and ones who have been on the outside could come in and get some match experience but we’ll need to put in a good performance.”