NI 'need to bounce back' against Andorra - Ballard

Northern Ireland defender Daniel Ballard believes it is "really important" for his side to get back to winning ways in Tuesday night's friendly with Andorra.

Michael O'Neill's men saw their three-game unbeaten run ended by Spain in emphatic fashion on Saturday night, losing 5-1 in Palma despite Ballard giving the visitors the lead after just 69 seconds.

In a game to be played at the neutral site of the Estadio Nueva Condomina in Murcia, Northern Ireland will be expected to end their ten-day Spanish trip on a high note against an Andorra side sat 164th in the Fifa World rankings.

"It's going to be a big game, we need to bounce back from the defeat the other day," said 24-year-old Ballard.

"We've been working on a lot of things throughout the week and a lot of stuff we couldn't put into practice against Spain due to their quality.

"I think it's really important. We knew the Spain game was going to be tough. The result wasn't brilliant, obviously, so we need to get back to the results we had before this trip and bounce back with a win."

Ballard is expected to captain the side , something the Sunderland man says would be "a dream come true", and he is looking forward to the opportunity for the side's more attacking players to impose themselves on proceedings.

Even before the Spain defeat saw the opposition enjoy long spells on the ball, Northern Ireland had found success with a direct style that made the most of limited possession.

They will, however, be expected to be the ones dictating things in their final game before the Nations League returns in September.

"It's going to be a good game," Ballard added.

"We want the tempo to be high. We're going to have a lot more of the ball.

"It's exciting. We should see a lot more of our attacking players and hopefully a lot more exciting football from us."

Dan Ballard celebrates against Spain
Ballard's goal against Spain was his third in international football [Getty Images]

O'Neill noted that it will be a different experience to both Saturday night and the friendly games against other Euro 2024-bound opposition in March when Northern Ireland drew with Romania and beat Scotland.

"It isn't a defensive system, it can be adapted to be an attacking system and we expect to have more of the ball," he said.

"The challenge for us is to be good on the ball. We've been good in transition and we've been good on counter-attack, but now we have to be good in possession as well."

Although goalkeeper Conor Hazard is O'Neill's only fitness concern among the 25-man travelling squad, the manager is expected to rotate and is anticipating Andorra will make things awkward for his side.

"It's a totally different game. Andorra are a minnow but they're still a difficult team.

"You only have to look at their results. Bigger and stronger nations than us have won against them, but they've not won by a big margin.

"Nobody likes to be beaten the way we were by Spain but we had 20 minutes where we played a team right at the top of their game and it just went away from us. But I thought the attitude of the team in the second half was great.

"We just want to finish off well now and have a good performance and result."