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Jamie Ward: Northern Ireland showed in the qualifiers that we have the character to bounce back

By Steven Beacom

Jamie Ward has insisted nothing will be left out on the pitch by the Northern Ireland players tonight.

There was frustration on Sunday from the players after they lost 1-0 to Poland in Nice, not just at the result but also the performance with all feeling they had failed to delivered the type of display they were capable of.

Nottingham Forest star Ward says everyone is determined to return to the dressing room after this evening's Group C encounter with Ukraine in Lyon knowing they gave it their best shot.

The 30-year-old said the current Northern Ireland squad possesses the character to bounce back from the Poland disappointment against Ukraine in what is a must-win match for Michael O'Neill's men.

"We were disappointed to lose and it wasn't a very happy changing room, but now we have another game to focus and concentrate on. The Poland match was our first loss in 13 games. Two years ago, if you'd told us that would be our record at this point, we would have been delighted.

"We're still in control of our own destiny and now we've got to make sure we leave nothing out there on the pitch.

"In tournament football, your fortunes can change very quickly because the next game comes around within days.

"Look at us in the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. We had nothing going for us then, but the European qualifiers came along and it was as if we were a totally different team.

"The confidence that went through us was unreal. You can see we have character and can bounce back. This group of players will always fight to the end."

Ward was a regular starter during the successful qualifying campaign but surprisingly was on the bench for the Poland match. Along with fellow substitutes Stuart Dallas and Conor Washington, he came on in the second half when Northern Ireland had their most dangerous period.

"Obviously for myself, I was disappointed not to start but it was one of those things," said Ward. "It was such a big occasion, so not to get the chance to start and play at least 60/70 minutes was disappointing for myself.

"We've got to worry about the team though and make sure everyone is right for the next game.

"I thought when Stuey (Dallas) and Conor came off the bench they did well. I wasn't too bad although I could have done a little better a couple of times.

"Coming into the game and trying to change it in a short space of time is obviously tough."

With manager O'Neill sure to pick a more attacking side against Ukraine, Ward, who has been such a vital player for Northern Ireland in the past 18 months with his energy, drive and skill, may get the nod tonight.

He could play alongside Kyle Lafferty, who was isolated in attack and didn't make an impact on the Poland defence at all.

"It was tough for Kyle up there by himself. It's a tough job," added Ward.

"When we do get the ball to him, we have to deliver it with quality. Hopefully we can do that against Ukraine."

Belfast Telegraph