Lambert: We Need a Win to Kickstart Everything
Tuesday, 27th Nov 2018 18:39
Boss Paul Lambert says Town need a win to kickstart the fightback towards safety and maintain the momentum he has built up in the month since he took charge. The bottom-of-the-table Blues face Bristol City at Portman Road on Wednesday looking for their first win under Lambert’s management, their second victory of 2018/19 and their first at Portman Road since April (Sky Sports Football, red button/iFollow Ipswich).
Within the space of a few short weeks Lambert has done much to reunify a club which has been a less than harmonious place over the last few seasons.
Club legends Terry Butcher, George Burley and John Wark were invited to lunch at Playford Road, while Lambert has stressed the importance of the fans as Town, still six points plus goal difference from safety following Tuesday's results, look to avoid the drop with supporters groups, including Blue Action, meeting him last week ahead of the West Brom match.
But he knows that a win is now needed to build on that work: “Yes, and to sustain that. When you walk in the training ground, it doesn’t feel like a football club at the bottom.
“It is what it is because of what happened beforehand but we’re in good form at this moment in time and we just need that win to kickstart everything because everybody’s really positive with us at the minute. And it’s up to us to try and deliver it.”
Lambert believes the displays in the three games since he took charge - two draws and Friday’s defeat to the Baggies - have been worthy of picking up that first victory.
“I think we deserve a win for the way we’ve been playing,” he added. “As I’ve said before, you can’t always predict what happens in a game but one thing’s for sure is that you should always be ready for it.
“I think the supporters really enjoyed the game on Friday, I think the atmosphere was great, it really was, and we needed them to be the way they were.
“I know it’s well documented that I met some of the fan groups, which I think was important.
“The big thing was to try and reconnect the town with the football club and the fans. Not just for now but for the future.
“We have to get a generation of supporters back into this club. You can’t keep losing fans, not when there’s only one team in the town.”
Lambert says he’s not setting any long-term points targets: “Everybody knows the situation, they don’t need me to reiterate to them that we have to try and win games as well as playing well, but you’ve got a better chance of winning games when you’re playing well than not.
“It’s a different story when you’re not playing well and you’re not getting results and you’re wondering where the next one is coming from or the next point.
“We’re going into games now and they’ve got the belief that they can go and win games. The big thing for me is never to look too far ahead because you can’t influence what’s going to happen in three or four weeks’ time, it’s the here and now and the Bristol City game is the most important one.”
He says he’ll take the game to the opposition: “I’ve always been like that, I was like that as a player. I played with clubs that were always on the front foot. I was fortunate I had a good career myself and I knew what it was like and I played under some great managers and with some great players, so I know what it’s like to be on the front foot.
“And I won’t play any other way. This is the way I play, I want us to entertain. We’re in the entertainment business, I think sometimes people forget that but the performances I’ve been really, really pleased with.”
His approach with Town also involves playing the ball out from the back which at times caused them a few headaches against a West Brom side who closed them down quickly. However, he says it’s something he will continue to tell his players to do.
“We don’t have a massive physical presence to back to front,” he said. “I don’t want to play that way anyway.
“The lads are doing everything I ask of them. I actually saw the stats from the game and I’m not really one for stats and I think the passing count was about 455 for us to West Brom’s 290s or 300.
“We were brilliant on the ball. If we go back to front it’s going to keep coming back and I’d rather play football on the ground and that's the way I want to play.
“I’m the one responsible for us playing that way. If I wanted to go long and back and long and back, I’d bring in guys about 6ft 9. I don’t want to do that. I’ll play my way and I’ll take responsibility for everything.
“The players play the way I want to play and when they make mistakes it’s my fault, not theirs. I’ll take the responsibility.
“They’re doing everything they can to play my way. I’ve been at the top level, I know exactly what it’s like but if they keep doing what they’re doing, they’re getting better at it, I think they’re enjoying the game of football, but it’s my responsibility.
“They’re having the courage to take the ball and if you want to be a top team you have to play with courage and play with no fear. It’s my responsibility, I’ll pick the team and I’ll tell them how to play.”
Those passing stats have got better with each game, the Blues having totalled 343 against Preston and then 398 at Reading before surpassing the 400-mark against the Baggies with 416, according to WhoScored.com.
“They’ve been great, the lads,” Lambert added. “They’ve taken it in really quickly, we’re dominating the ball, which is great and if you dominate the ball you will have better chances to win the game.
“But the enthusiasm for the game has been great. They’re passion for the game. There’s no secrets in football. If you don’t have passion first and foremost you’ll never get the result.
“But they’re showing everything that I’m asking of them and that’s been the pleasing thing. They’ve been an absolute credit to work with.”
Lambert believes good performances will eventually lead to positive results: “I’d rather play well than play terribly and be thinking that I can’t see where this is going to come from, whereas the games that we’ve been performing in at the minute we look a threat every time we go forward, which I don’t think was there before.
“There was a lot of apathy there, the belief that they could get the result wasn’t there but now [that’s not the case] through everybody, not just the players but the supporters as well.”
Would have have been happier with the decent performances than his side picking up a couple of scrappy wins in his first three games in charge? “No, I’d rather have maximum points, I’d rather have nine points but we’ve not but we’re playing well and that gives you a better chance and there’s a bigger picture. There are so many games to play here.
“I’d rather the points, no two ways about it, but also I know that to play football the right way and to do the right things we’re doing, we’re on the right road.”
Inevitably Wednesday’s game has been described as a must-win fixture, however, Lambert points out pretty much every game he has taken charge of so far has been given similar billing.
“I think you said that to me the first day I walked in the door,” he reminded reporters at his lunchtime press conference. “You said that against Preston, Reading. You’re going to have that right from day one.
“That doesn’t really faze me, everybody knows the way the club’s been but what we’ve done is give everybody an ignition of fire.
“This is the way we want to play and this is what we want to do, we want to excite people, we want to try and win games.
“And in the three games I couldn’t ask for any more from anybody at the club, supporters, people who actually work at the club, here and down at the stadium, they’ve been great. I just felt everybody needed a lift. That’s what I felt, the whole club needed a lift.”
Bristol City are 16th after Tuesday's matches, 11 points better off than the Blues, having lost their last four and seven of their last 11, winning just two in that time.
Turning his attention to the Robins, Lambert said: “[Head coach] Lee [Johnson] would like results to be better but sometimes you can’t get it all your own way. It’s a tough game but we’re playing well.
“We’re going into the game full of confidence and we’ll go and try and win and play our way. But I know it’s going to be a hard game.”
Off the field, Lambert wants to see a repeat of Friday’s atmosphere, although the attendance is likely to be significantly lower as there was a ticket promotion at the West Brom match.
“They were brilliant, they really were and, as I said after the game, a big thanks from myself and the staff and the players for giving us that support,” the Blues manager added.
“This isn’t a normal situation where a team’s at the bottom of the table and the atmosphere’s [downbeat], you’d never have thought that, but we need everybody together.
“Without the fans there’s no game. You need the fans and the players will respond to an atmosphere.
“If you have an atmosphere and it’s as vibrant as that, players love to play in front of it. And we have to get that.
“As I said before, I think there was a real lowness here, people could give or take coming into the football club and, maybe OK we’ll lose, don’t play well and it’s the same old story, but we have to start somewhere.
“We have to have the vibrancy of ‘This is what we’re going to do’, the crowd will come back and watch it.
“And as I said before, there’s only one team in the town. Use it, it’ll be powerful. If you get the fans in and they enjoy it for 90 minutes.
“Forget what happens prior to the game, if you’ve paid money to come in, whether it’s £10 or £5 or £30, I know if it was me I would just go and have a right a good time. We will try and entertain them but the fans on Friday night we absolutely brilliant for us.”
Lambert will probably stick essentially to the same team he has fielded in his three previous matches with Bartosz Bialkowski on goal, Jordan Spence at right-back, Jonas Knudsen the left full-back and skipper Luke Chambers - who will be looking to avoid his fifth booking of the season ahead of Friday's cut-off point when 10 cards will lead to a ban - and Matthew Pennington the centre-halves.
Cole Skuse will be in his usual deeper midfield role with Trevoh Chalobah and Flynn Downes ahead of him, although Andre Dozzell and Jon Nolan - back after a dead leg - may hope to receive recalls. Teddy Bishop is likely to play a part from the bench.
Lambert has played down the chances of Jack Lankester being handed his first senior start but if he is included from the off the 18-year-old would probably take over from Gwion Edwards on the right of the front three.
However, the Blues boss seems likely to stick with the Welshman - at least for Wednesday’s game, he has hinted at changes at Nottingham Forest on Saturday - alongside central striker Jordan Roberts and Freddie Sears on the right.
Despite their current form, Bristol City head coach Johnson says his side are in a good spirits going into their trip to Portman Road.
“I think we go into the next game very positive, we have to be,” he told the Robins official site.
“We’re a fantastic football club playing in a fantastic division. We’re mid-table and can go up or down.
“At this point is it glass half full or glass half empty? Sometimes after a couple of losses, or four as it is at the moment, it can be very negative, but it is up to the players to show that belief in our system and ability to go into this game on Wednesday and execute [our game] extremely well.
“I do think we did that [in Saturday's 2-0 defeat] against Leeds up until the game-changing decision [Josh Brownhill’s sending off] and that is why I was positive after that game because we need to be, moving into this next big game, as they all are, against Ipswich.”
Johnson is pleased that the game against the Blues comes so soon after the weekend loss to Leeds.
“The great thing about football is you are judged every three days,” he added. “The fact we have Ipswich on Wednesday is a good thing and I believe we can be heroes again.
“The players should have picked up confidence from that Leeds game and we have got to work hard to execute in the moments we have created through bits of good play and that’s what we’ll be looking to do on Wednesday.”
Regarding Town, he added: “We want to go to Ipswich and produce a very good away performance. It will have to be professional, it will have to be energetic, it will have to be full of creativity.
"They have picked up - two draws and a loss against a good West Brom side and they are at home.
“And they'll look at it with us not in great form and say there's an opportunity for us to get three points but I think the league's so competitive - every single game is one that you can win but one that you can lose.
“But I thought we could have beaten Leeds, I honestly did. I think it was a good time to play them as they had a few players out and I think that showed in our performance up to the sending off.”
Midfielder Brownhill’s red card rules him out of Wednesday’s game but skipper Bailey Wright could return following a thigh operation.
Striker Matty Taylor is out for a few weeks having picked up a knock, while former Canary and one-time Town target Marley Watkins is running after an ankle injury but not ready for a return to match action.
Keeper Frank Fielding is back in training after a hip injury but won’t be involved against the Blues while midfielder Korey Smith remains out having undergone knee surgery.
Historically, Town have the edge, winning 29 (27 in the league), losing 22 (22) and drawing 13 (13).
However, the Blues have won just one of their last eight against Bristol City, while their current streak of 11 home games without a victory is their longest since joining the Football League in 1938.
Town have won only twice at Portman Road in 2018, the 1-0 victories over Barnsley in April and Leeds in January.
The teams last met at a snowy and windy Ashton Gate in March when sub Milan Djuric netted the only goal in the 64th minute as the Blues fell to their first away defeat in six matches. Djuric headed home Lloyd Kelly’s left-wing cross shortly after coming off the bench.
At Portman Road in September last year, goals from Brownhill, Famara Diedhiou and Bobby Reid saw Bristol City to a 3-1 victory, their first win on Town turf in 39 years, while Martyn Waghorn netted for the Blues.
Brownhill’s deflected goal put the visitors in front in the second minute, Diedhiou doubled the lead on 31, before Waghorn pulled a goal back four minutes prior to half-time.
However, there was to be no second-half comeback from Town and Reid sealed the three points eight minutes from the end.
Skuse moved to the Blues from his hometown club, who he had joined as a schoolboy, following their relegation in the summer of 2013 after making 245 starts and 62 sub appearances, and scoring nine times.
Keeper Dean Gerken also left Ashton Gate the same summer, joining the Blues after a trial during pre-season ahead of 2013/14, having made 60 appearances for the Robins after signing from Colchester in July 2009.
Blues defender Spence spent two spells on loan with the Robins, a two-month stint at the end of the 2010/11 season and then the whole of the following campaign at Ashton Gate. In total he made 21 starts and one sub appearance without scoring.
Central defender Adam Webster joined the Robins from the Blues in the summer having made 48 starts and five sub appearances, scoring once, in two years at Portman Road.
City boss Johnson, a close friend of Skuse’s from their playing days together at Ashton Gate, was born in Suffolk during his father Gary’s time as a player with Newmarket Town.
Wednesday’s referee is David Webb from Lancashire, who has shown 37 yellow cards and one red in 14 games so far this season.
Webb’s most recent Town match was the 1-0 defeat at Rotherham in August in which he booked only two Millers and denied the Blues what looked a certain penalty when Roberts was felled in the area late on.
He was also in charge of the 0-0 home draw with Burton Albion in February, in which he booked only one Brewer.
Before that he took control of the 1-1 draw at Leeds in January 2014 in which he booked only Skuse and awarded the home side a penalty, which Ross McCormack converted, after Chambers fouled future Blues outcast Cameron Stewart.
He also refereed the 1-1 draw at Bolton in October 2013 when he booked one player from each side.
More notable was his previous game involving the Blues, the 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest in March of the same year when he red-carded two Town players, Lee Martin and Richard Stearman, and showed five yellow cards to Tricky Trees.
Webb’s only Town matches prior to that were the 1-0 victory over Derby at Portman Road in December 2011 - when he booked no Blues and two Rams - and the 2-0 victory at home to Scunthorpe in March of the same year when he yellow-carded Martin, Gareth McAuley, Grant Leadbitter and one visiting player.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Spence, Knudsen, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Pennington, Nsiala, Donacien, Skuse, Chalobah, Downes, Dozzell, Edun, Nolan, Bishop, Edwards, Ward, Rowe, Roberts, Sears, Jackson, Lankester.
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