Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland v Greece: Jamie Ward and Josh Magennis ready to fill Kyle Lafferty's 'goal-den' boots

By Steven Beacom

Jamie Ward and Josh Magennis are ready to step up and fill the goalscoring void left by Kyle Lafferty's suspension.

The Norwich City striker has netted seven out of Northern Ireland's 12 goals in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign and there are concerns amongst fans that Michael O'Neill's side will struggle to find the net against Greece tomorrow night without the Fermanagh hitman.

Enter Ward and Magennis, both lively, likeable characters.

Winger Ward, whose energy around the pitch can often set the tone for Northern Ireland, is available again after missing last month's double-header with the Faroe Islands and Hungary through injury.

The Nottingham Forest star watched those games on television in his kitchen. He'll feel much happier being on the pitch tomorrow and having scored already against Greece in a 2-0 win in Athens last year, it's no wonder he fancies his chances of netting again if the opportunity comes along.

"The last 18 months of playing for Northern Ireland bring back a lot of happy memories and for me getting a goal against Greece was great. Kyle's goal that night was superb too," said Ward.

"Kyle will be a big miss this time because no-one knows what he's going to do, not even himself.

"But we'll try to score goals without him and maybe it is time for a few of us to step up in his absence."

Kilmarnock striker Magennis wants to be one of those players.

It's been well known in football circles here for years that the Bangor man started his career as a goalkeeper, but with more interest now across the water in Northern Ireland's campaign, the number one to number nine story has gained new legs, especially with Magennis set to deputise for Lafferty tomorrow.

Interview requests have been pouring in for big Josh.

Rarely seen without a smile on his face off the pitch, he has taken it all in his stride and feels ready for the challenge, openly admitting how much scoring the winning goal against Greece, and taking Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals, would mean to him.

"Scoring a goal in a game like this is what you dream about as a wee boy," said Magennis, yet to find the net for his country.

"The more I'm around this environment, the more chances I get, the more the dream becomes a reality.

"Every time you come away with the team you think 'imagine coming on and scoring a winner' and if a chance comes against Greece it's up to me to take it."

Final wise words from Ward: "We have to make sure we qualify. With all the hard work we've put in, it would be a shame to let ourselves down now."

Belfast Telegraph