EURO 2016 QUALIFIERS: Jamie Ward is ready to step up to the plate in the absence of Kyle Lafferty

Jamie Ward (left) in action against Romania back in June

Jamie Ward (left) in action against Romania back in June

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Jamie Ward is ready to step up to the plate in the absence of Kyle Lafferty on Thursday night.

Talisman Lafferty – who has scored seven goals in eight Euro 2016 qualifiers – is suspended for the visit of Greece, with Northern Ireland needing victory to book their place in next summer’s finals.

The next top goal scorer in Michael O’Neill’s squad is defender Gareth McAuley who has netted three times, including two in last month’s 3-1 win over the Faroe Islands.

O’Neill will look for a new hero to step up and earn Northern Ireland’s spot in France next year, and Nottingham Forest striker Ward is hoping he can hit the mark at Windsor Park.

“I think we’re all in the same boat, we have to work just as hard as before, with or without Kyle,” Ward said.

“We’ve tried scoring goals when Kyle has played we’ll be trying exactly the same now he’s not.

“He’s a big miss because no-one knows what he’s going to do – not even himself.

“Maybe it is time for a few of us to step up who have been playing regularly.”

Ward missed last month’s 1-1 draw against Hungary with a hamstring injury, and he admits watching the game in his kitchen was a frustrating experience.

“I was sat at home watching the TV in the kitchen because I got bullied out of the living room,” he joked.

“Watching was exciting and nervous but it’s always hard to watch when there’s a lot riding on it.”