Northern Ireland: Jamie Ward likely to miss Faroe Islands game

Jamie Ward
Jamie Ward joined Nottingham Forest on a four-year deal from Derby County in July

Nottingham Forest forward Jamie Ward looks set to miss Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 Group F qualifier against the Faroe Islands in Torshavn on Friday.

Neither Ward nor West Bromwich Albion winger Chris Brunt figured for their clubs on Saturday because of injury.

"Of the two Chris has the better chance of being fit. We may decide to leave Jamie with his club for a couple of days," said NI manager Michael O'Neill.

"Realistically, his better chance is for the second game against Hungary."

Northern Ireland's remaining Euro 2016 Group F qualifiers
Faroe Islands (away)Friday, 4 September 2015
Hungary (home)Monday, 7 September 2015
Greece (home)Thursday, 8 October 2015
Finland (away)Sunday, 11 October 2015

Both players have been suffering from hamstring injuries, with Brunt having limped off after 14 minutes of his side's Capital One Cup clash against Port Vale last week.

"We have been in constant contact with West Brom and Nottingham Forest over the past few days. Hopefully they will be ready," added the NI boss.

Northern Ireland will welcome the Hungarians to Belfast for the second match of the crucial qualification double-header on 7 September, but O'Neill says his "initial focus" is on winning the game against the Faroes.

"The Faroes have made steady progress, beating Greece and going down to two narrow defeats, so we are expecting a very difficult game.

"They are a physical team and have improved their performances and results. We will prepare in the right manner and we won't treat them lightly."

NI in contention for France finals

O'Neill's men are second in Group F - one point behind leaders Romania and two ahead of third-placed Hungary.

Northern Ireland have never qualified for the finals of the European competition and the last time they qualified for a major tournament was the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Meanwhile there are also concerns over the match fitness of Kyle Lafferty, who has been ruled out of Norwich City's opening matches of the season through injury.

The striker, who has scored five times for his country in the present campaign but is sitting on two yellow cards, returned to first-team training with the Canaries last week.

Kyle Lafferty
Kyle Lafferty has been a pivotal figure in the Euro campaign, scoring five goals

"Kyle is fit in the sense that he has trained but he has not played any games so we will assess how he is when the players meet up on Sunday.

"We need him for the Faroes, but also against Hungary, which comes just three days later, so that is a big ask.

"We'll monitor him through the week, see how he is, and get as much out of him as we can."

The NI boss indicated at the announcement of his squad last week that the fitness of Shane Ferguson and Ben Reeves was also being monitored.

Reacting to the news that defender Jonny Evans has moved from Manchester United to West Bromwich Albion, O'Neill was glad one of his key men would be playing more first-team football, having been out of favour at Old Trafford recently.

"I thought Jonny might move to a club that's going to be higher in the Premier League but as long as he's playing that's the main thing. He is a huge asset for us."