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Daniel Ballard set to lead Northern Ireland as Jonny Evans misses Andorra game

Daniel Ballard, right, is set to captain Northern Ireland on Tuesday (Liam McBurney/PA)
Daniel Ballard, right, is set to captain Northern Ireland on Tuesday (Liam McBurney/PA)

Jonny Evans will play no part in Northern Ireland’s friendly against Andorra on Tuesday night with Daniel Ballard set to take the captain’s armband in Murcia.

Evans, who has dealt with a number of injury niggles throughout the season at Manchester United, played the full 90 minutes of Saturday’s 5-1 loss to Spain in Palma and Michael O’Neill has opted to allow the 36-year-old to rest. Evans did not travel with the rest of the team on Sunday.

Ballard, who scored Northern Ireland’s goal against Spain when they took a shock early 1-0 lead, will now get the honour of captaining his country for the first time at the Estadio Nueva Condomina in Murcia.

Saturday may have been a humbling night but O’Neill said he wanted his side to play with confidence in an encounter where it should be their turn to dominate.

“This game is different because we know there is an expectation there obviously,” he said. “We have to go in and play with confidence. We have to play quickly. We don’t want the game to be slow and pedestrian.

“We can make it a frustrating night for ourselves but it’s important that we don’t do that.”

There was no surprise that Conor Bradley was Northern Ireland’s most lively attacking threat against Spain, and the Liverpool youngster said he was looking forward to a night when he should not need to spend so much time on the back foot.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Bradley said. “It should be a good game. Obviously it was disappointing against Spain, they were very clinical. We’ve watched the game back and I don’t think we did as bad as what the result showed.

“We’re looking forward to the game now and hopefully we can put on a good performance.

“I much prefer going forwards than having to go backwards so I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully I can chip in with some goals and assists and help the team.

“It won’t be the same game. We should have a little bit more of the ball and show a different side. We need to be better going forward and create chances against a deep low block.”

O’Neill indicated he intends to make several changes, and that could mean a debut for defender Aaron Donnelly, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Saturday.

The only other uncapped player in O’Neill’s squad is 18-year-old goalkeeper Pierce Charles, the younger brother of midfielder Shea, who could be pushed up the order if Conor Hazard is unable to recover from an infection in his leg in time for the match.

Bradley added: “We’ve got quite a young team and so it’s about trying to get as many of them games and game time.

“I know whenever I made my debut it was a special moment so hopefully whoever hasn’t yet will get their chance and take their chance.”