Kyle is joker in pack: Ward

Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward tries to evade Finland's Roman Eremenko.
Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward tries to evade Finland's Roman Eremenko.

Jamie Ward admits that Kyle Lafferty is the joker in the pack in this Northern Ireland squad, but he rates the big striker as one of the best in the business.

Lafferty plundered another two goals, bring his total to five in the Euro Championship qualifying campaign, which went the 10,000 fans home happy after another absorbing 90 minutes at Windsor Park.

“Kyle may be a clown on the training pitch, but he is working enormously hard,” laughed Ward. “But he showed what a class act he with with his goals.

“He is oozing with confidence. His scoring ration in this campaign is superb.

“Like everyone else in the squad, he knows he’ll get a bit of a rocket if he is not performing, but I think that just keeps everyone on their toes.”

Ward would have been in with a serious shout of the man of the match award, only for Lafferty’s two goal salvo.

The Derby County man has formed an eerie understanding with Conor McLaughlin on the right flank.

He added: “We have a good shape about us down the right. It’s nice to play with someone you know who is going to give you the ball. That’s always Conor’s first option.

“Hopefully, we can carry on the way we have been performing.

“I thought we posed an attacking threat, especially in the first half. We’ve managed to form a good partnership in this campaign.

“In all honesty, Conor should be playing his club football at a higher level.

“If he keeps working hard and, with a bit of luck, he will get a move on the summer.

“The partnership is getting better and better with each game.”

Ward, who was making his 14the appearance in a green shirt, admitted he was disappointed not to get on the score sheet when sent through the middle early in the first half.

“I was a bit gutted not putting it away. I really should have scored when Kyle played me in.

“When you look at the bigger picture, it’s about the team and not individuals.”

Like the rest of his Northern Ireland colleagues, Ward believes there is still much work to be done before they start taking about the 2016 summer in France.

“We’ll not start believing what we are actually doing until we book our ticket,” he added.