Belfast Telegraph

Striker Jamie Ward will recover in time for the Euro 2016 finals

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland star Jamie Ward is expected to recover from his hamstring injury and take his place in Michael O'Neill’s squad for the Euro 2016 finals.

There were concerns that Ward would miss the tournament after going off in the first half of Nottingham Forest’s 2-1 home defeat to Brighton in the Championship on Monday, but while he may not play again for his club this season, the feeling at the City Ground is that he will be fine for France.

That will be a relief for O’Neill, who is already without the injured Chris Brunt for the summer.

Losing Ward would have been an even bigger blow, such is his importance to the side.

The 29-year-old forward’s all-action style often sets the tempo for O’Neill’s men and has helped make him a favourite with the Northern Ireland fans, who will be content if Ward doesn’t play for Forest in their remaining five games of the campaign, as long as he is fit for the Euros.

Former Republic of Ireland ace Andy Reid, now assistant coach at Forest, said: “Jamie has been for a scan, so we are assessing him still.

“We know roughly where we stand, but we need to monitor him for a few days yet and hope it will settle down.”

While Ward will work on his recovery to be ready for Northern Ireland’s first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup finals, international skipper Steven Davis returns from injury for Southampton’s visit to Everton tomorrow in the Premier League.

Inspirational midfielder Davis is back in business following an ankle injury.

Saints boss Ronald Koeman said: “Steven Davis is back. He did the normal training sessions from last Tuesday and that’s good.”

There was also welcome news for midfielder Paul Paton who has been given the all-clear to play for Dundee United in tomorrow’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibs.

Paton, who came off the bench for O’Neill’s side in the 1-1 friendly draw in Wales last month, has overcome a knee problem much to the delight of his manager Mixu Paatelainen.

“Paul has been magnificent for us this season,” said Paatelainen.

“He is a leader, not only by his performances but also vocally.

“His crunching tackles are vitally important for us and we are delighted he is available and fit enough to play.”

The winners of the clash between Dundee United and Hibs will meet whoever comes through the eagerly awaited semi-final between Rangers and Celtic on Sunday at Hampden.

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