NI defenders Ciaron Brown and Craig CathcartDefenders Ciaron Brown and Craig Cathcart both sustained injuries in the defeat by Slovenia

Northern Ireland defenders Craig Cathcart and Ciaron Brown have been ruled out of Sunday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Kazakhstan in Astana.

Another central defender, Daniel Ballard, was deemed unfit to play any part in the loss in Ljubljana.

Midfielder Shea Charles ended up joining Jonny Evans in central defence.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill had already found his squad badly hit by the absence of a plethora of senior players for the September Group H double-header. Ballard’s unavailability for the encounter with the Slovenians followed, and Cathcart and Brown have joined the absentees.

Brown was forced off injured in the first half after injuring his ankle and his replacement, Cathcart, went off 15 minutes from time in the second period with a groin complaint.

Sunderland defender Ballard was not included in the matchday squad to face Slovenia because of a knock picked up last weekend.

Among the other players O’Neill has been unable to call upon are Steven Davis, Stuart Dallas, Jamal Lewis, Shane Ferguson, Conor Bradley, Corry Evans, Gavin Whyte, Shayne Lavery and Dale Taylor.

At the halfway point of their Euro qualifying campaign, Northern Ireland sit fifth of the six nations in their group with three points.

An opening win away to San Marino has been followed by reverses at the hands of Finland, Denmark, Kazakhstan and Slovenia.