Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland v Germany: Jamie Ward banishes all suspension fears to hit knockout target

By Paul Ferguson in Paris

Tigerish Jamie Ward is ready to sacrifice his own personal ambition for the good of the Northern Ireland team.

Ward was shown a yellow card in the 63rd minute of Northern Ireland's exhilarating victory over Ukraine last Thursday night.

He, along with Jonny Evans and Stuart Dallas, who were also booked in the game, are all now walking a suspension tightrope as a caution against Germany tomorrow night in their final Group C match would rule them out of a last 16 clash, should Northern Ireland reach the knock-out stages.

The Nottingham Forest attacking midfielder has always played aggressively - getting under the skin of the opposition and suffocating the life out of defenders with his closing down play.

Wards insists he is not going to change his style, even though it means he could be susceptible to picking up another yellow card.

"I like to play on the edge," admits 30 year-old Ward. "If it's a case that I get booked and I miss the next game if we get through, then that's just one of those things. It won't be a silly booking, it'll only be a booking that needs to be taken."

Ward was one five players brought in by manager Michael O'Neill for the Ukraine game following the opening Euro 2016 defeat to Poland. He excelled in a 4-5-1 formation which became 4-3-3 when Northern Ireland attacked. Playing off the industrious Conor Washington, Ward never allowed the Ukrainians a second on the ball and used the ball creatively in his possession.

Birmingham born Ward states: "Michael had faith in a lot of people by changing the team. As hard as it is for the people coming out of the team, we're still all tight as a group. Obviously they're all disappointed (personally) but they're delighted we've got the victory, and that's the main thing.

"It was one of those games where I just felt good going into the game, felt good on the ball. Obviously there were some things I could have done a lot better, don't get me wrong, but I knew I had to put a big performance in, work hard, and make sure the team came out on top."

Striker Kyle Lafferty was the big name player to receive the chop as Washington took his position leading the line. Throughout the qualifiers Lafferty and Ward played extremely well together, but Washington fitted in seamlessly.

Boss O'Neill is likely to go with the same side that beat Ukraine against World champions Germany in Paris, although nothing in this Northern Ireland team should ever be taken for granted.

Ward added: "Even with Kyle out, the dynamics of the team are the same because we have another option in Conor.

"Obviously it's been tough on Kyle, he did so well during the campaign, but then to lose his spot at the competition will be tough on him. People react differently but he's got his head down, worked hard in training, and that's the most important thing. We have to make sure his head's right."

Belfast Telegraph