Northern Ireland v Montenegro: Rahcel Dugdale, Kelsie Burrows & Lauren Perry return

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Rachel Newborough in action
Reading defender Rachel Dugdale won her last Northern Ireland cap in 2019

Northern Ireland manager Tanya Oxtoby says she is “really excited” to work with the returning Lauren Perry and Rachel Dugdale before the Nations League play-off with Montenegro.

Reading defender Dugdale won her last cap in 2019 while Montrose goalkeeper Perry last played for NI in 2018.

Defender Kelsie Burrows also returns as Abbie Magee, Rachel McLaren and goalkeeper Rachael Norney make way.

Record goalscorer Rachel Furness remains out through injury.

Oxtoby’s side visit Montenegro on 23 February before the home leg at Windsor Park four days later.

Northern Ireland will be looking to retain their place in League B after finishing third in their group behind the Republic of Ireland and Hungary.

Montenegro finished second in League C3 behind Azerbaijan to reach the play-off.

Reading defender Dugdale, nee Newborough, won the last of her 24 caps in Euro 2022 qualifying while Cliftonville’s Burrows returns to the squad after missing December’s matches through work commitments.

Perry, who has recovered from two ruptured anterior cruciate knee ligaments, made her debut as a 16-year-old and has earned five caps.

The 22-year-old joined Montrose from SWPL rivals Dundee United in the summer window and will provide competition to Crusaders’ Maddy Harvey-Clifford and Wolves’ Shannon Turner.

Lauren Perry in Northern Ireland training
Lauren Perry won her last Northern Ireland cap in 2018

Reading goalkeeper Jackie Burns, who has been Northern Ireland’s number one in recent campaigns, has returned to training following a serious Achilles injury sustained in April but the play-off comes too soon into her recovery.

“Lauren has been doing a fantastic job for her club, as has Rachel, so they are two players we have been monitoring over the past six-to-eight weeks,” Oxtoby added.

“I’m really excited to see them in as part of the group and see how they go.

“I can only imagine the difficulties she has gone through with those injuries and credit to her, she has fought her way back. She is in really good form and we want to reward that.

“We want to bring her in and see where she is at in comparison to the group. It’s the same with Rachel, she has had a really tough time with injuries as well so credit to both of them for fighting their way back to good form and consistent performances.

“She has been on my radar the whole time, since she came in. The consistencies of her performances for her have really stood out, so I’m really excited to get her in with the group to see how she goes.”

Furness to continue coaching

Bristol City midfielder Furness, who missed December’s games against Albania and the Republic of Ireland with a hamstring injury, remains out but is set to link up with the group to help coach the Under-19s.

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The 37-year-old recently completed her Uefa B Licence and Oxtoby said senior players looking at life after their careers on the pitch come to an end is really important.

“Furney is coming along, probably not at the pace she would like. She is a tearaway so she wants to be on the pitch ASAP,” Oxtoby added.

“She is progressing well and she will hopefully be with the Under-19s again, supporting from a coaching points of view which is something that is fantastic for our younger players, and also great for her development as well.

“We’ll hopefully have her back with the seniors really soon.

“For all of our players it is about supporting them off the pitch, whether that is within football or outside of football.

“If they want to create some opportunity for experience, we’re up for that. We can’t play forever, so making sure we support those transitions, for me personally, is really important.”

Northern Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Shannon Turner (Wolverhampton Wanderers Women), Maddy Harvey-Clifford (Crusaders Strikers), Lauren Perry (Montrose Women).

Defenders: Rebecca Holloway (Birmingham City) Ellie Mason (Birmingham City), Sarah McFadden (Durham), Rebecca McKenna (Charlton Athletic), Laura Rafferty (Southampton), Demi Vance (Glentoran), Kelsie Burrows (Cliftonville), Rachel Dugdale (Reading).

Midfielders: Joely Andrews (Glentoran) Nadene Caldwell (Glentoran), Chloe McCarron (Glentoran), Megan Bell (Hearts, on loan from Rangers), Marissa Callaghan (Cliftonville), Caragh Hamilton (Lewes).

Forwards: Kerry Beattie (Glentoran), Emily Wilson (Glentoran), Simone Magill (Aston Villa), Lauren Wade (Reading), Danielle Maxwell (Blackburn Rovers), Keri Halliday (Linfield).

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