Lambert Out to End Town's Woeful FA Cup Record at Accrington Stanley
Friday, 4th Jan 2019 12:20
Town go into Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie at Accrington Stanley looking to end their nine-year wait for a victory in the competition they won for the only time in 1978.
The Blues’ last win in an FA Cup tie came back in January 2010 when they beat Blackpool 2-1 in the third round at Bloomfield Road during Roy Keane’s time in charge.
“If the club’s not been through it since 2010, nine years, it’s a long time, too long for a club not to get through the early rounds, far too long,” manager Paul Lambert said at his pre-match press conference.
“I always think if you’re in a competition, go and do what you can to get through. There’s no point in playing the game if you think you can pick and choose where you can win.
“We owe it ourselves and owe it to the club and we owe it to the supporters because they'll go a long, long way to go and watch it. I won’t take it lightly, I’ll do everything I can to get through.”
Despite the Blues being bottom of the Championship 10 points fron safety, Lambert goes into the game pleased with his team’s recent performances.
“I’m really relaxed because we’re playing really well,” he said. “I can’t predict results, but I know football-wise, we’re in a really good place, the lads know they’re in a really good place with it.
“We just have to be more ruthless at both ends of the pitch and hopefully the help comes in [during January].”
Although the FA Cup’s importance has diminished in recent years, Lambert still believes it is a significant tournament.
“I get a buzz from any game, any game I’m involved in, whether it’s as a player or as a manager,” he said. “I love football, I love the way the game is.
“It’s an emotional roller-coaster, ups and downs. Every game I’ve been involved in I’ve loved. The FA Cup is a brilliant cup competition. Every game I’ve been involved in I enjoy.”
He added: “When you look at the photos when teams win it, it just shows you it’s as special as ever, getting to Wembley or actually winning the trophy, it’s a brilliant feeling for any footballer or any football club.
“I don’t think it’s ever undervalued, people might see different things, but it’s a competition that you want to do well in.
“Are we ever really going to win it? Nobody knows. Football is a strange game but when you’re win it you may as well go and do everything you can to stay in it.”
Lambert, who was never with an English club in his playing days, says his best FA Cup memories are from his time as Wolves boss during a run in the 2016/17 season.
“Wolves, we had three brilliant games,” he recalled. “We beat Stoke 2-0 at Stoke, it was a brilliant day I think it was the first time Wolves had got through the third round for a long time.
“Then we went to Anfield and won 2-1 and we were beaten by Chelsea at home but it was 1-0 until about the 94th minute, so the game was on an edge there.
“So that was a great little run there. You’ve drawn Stoke, Liverpool and Chelsea. And if we'd beaten Chelsea we thought maybe we were going to win this thing! I’m only kidding.
“That was a good little time. The cup run I had with Wycombe was great, that was the Carling Cup, the semi-final was great little run at it [the Chairboys beat Premier League Fulham and Charlton before losing to Chelsea in the semi-final].
“But it’s very difficult for smaller clubs now because the level of money is huge. The Premier League is huge - I’m pretty sure the final’s going to be between two really big clubs, that’s the nature of the way the game has gone.”
Given Town’s lowly position and with Accrington in a solid 12th in their first season in League One, plenty are anticipating an upset with the BBC’s Football Focus broadcasting from the Wham Stadium prior to the match and some bookies having the home side down as favourites.
“I never think about it, I’m totally focused on us,” Lambert insisted. “We’ll go up there and will try and win. The cup is great for throwing up surprises, always has been and always will be, that’s the nature of cup football.
“We have to go there and if we play the way we have been and we do the clinical stuff right and do what we’ve been doing of late, hopefully we’ll get through.”
Should Town go into the match expecting to win? “I don’t think there’s ever a game where you actually think, ‘We expect to win’. I think that’s dangerous. It’s a hard game, you have to earn the right to win.
“I’m not going up there and thinking that they’re a team in the league below or anything like that, the good thing is that a lot of the lads have played in the lower leagues, so the surroundings won’t be any different for them, they’ll know the surroundings.
“But I don’t go into any game thinking I’m expecting to win, I go into a game knowing I’ve got to earn the right to win, or we’ve got to earn the right to win. Football doesn’t work quite as easily as that.”
Conditions on and off the field at Accrington aren’t what Town are used to in the Championship but Lambert doesn’t expect that will have an impact on his players.
“You deal with it, that’s the nature of the game,” he added. “Cup football throws things like that up, that’s the nature of it. You have to go and handle it and see how the pitch is.
“I’ve not been up there for a number of years. I know the surroundings of it because I’ve been there with Wycombe, so I know exactly what it entails.
“But I don’t think it should faze anybody because a lot of the lads have come from League One and League Two, so I don’t think that will be a problem.”
Lambert knows Stanley will be relishing the chance to make some third-round-day headlines.
“When a so-called smaller club is up against a bigger team upsets happen. I’ve been involved in upsets myself, I know exactly what it’s like.
“We won the Champions League at Dortmund and we lost to a regional team in the German cup. Dortmund were European champions at that time.
“I know what it’s like, Celtic-Inverness, I know cup upsets can happen but that’s the nature of the game. But you just have to make sure on that given day that you get through.”
With Town’s primary focus on staying in the Championship is there a difficult balance for him to keep going into the match?
“Not really because I go into every game trying to win and this one will be no different,” he insisted.
“My own career was pretty successful. I played in teams where you go and try and win every game.
“I’m not going to sit here and say the league’s more important or the cup’s more important, every game you play in is vital to me. If we can win, great, and we’ll try everything we can to try and win.
“It’s a difficult game but I’m really happy with the football we’re playing, I’m really happy with the way we go about it. We just need to be more clinical in both boxes.”
Second guessing Lambert’s team is not an easy matter. He has said he’ll be fielding a strong side but may well use the game as an opportunity to field some of his fringe players.
The Blues boss says Dean Gerken is nursing a knock from the Millwall game and could be replaced by Bartosz Bialkowski.
In the back four, he could opt to give ex-Accrington men Janoi Donacien and Toto Nsiala games with the pair not having featured since the change of manager at Portman Road.
Donacien could come in at right-back for Jordan Spence - although Lambert views him primarily as a centre-half - with Nsiala perhaps coming into the team for Matthew Pennington.
Myles Kenlock seems likely to continue at left-back with new signing Callum Elder probably on the bench.
In midfield, Teddy Bishop might drop to the bench having made his second start of the season against Millwall, while Flynn Downes may also be rested after a busy Christmas period. Andre Dozzell and Jon Nolan, who is back after missing the Lions match due to a knock, could come into the roles ahead of Trevoh Chalobah.
Up front, Will Keane has completed his loan from Hull City in time to be involved. The 25-year-old could start against Stanley or alternatively Kayden Jackson may be the man given the nod to play down the middle against his old club, with Freddie Sears probably continuing on the left and Jack Lankester or Gwion Edwards on the right.
Accrington striker Offrande Zanzala is suspended having been red-carded in the 3-0 New Year’s Day defeat to Bradford City, while loanees Nick Anderton and Matty Platt have gone back to their parent clubs. However, Newcastle United’s Dan Barlaser has extended his spell.
Stanley boss John Coleman is looking for his side, who last season suffered an upset themselves when they were beaten by non-league Guiseley in a first-round replay, to beat the Blues and to continue an FA Cup run which has already seen them win home ties against Colchester United, 1-0, and Cheltenham, 3-1.
“The idea is to go as far as we can and make as much money as we can,” Coleman told the Stanley official site.
“A cup run in the past has made big changes to this club. The Huddersfield/Bournemouth season in 2003/04 and the influx of money that brought is the reason we are in the Football League and where we are now.
“Ipswich will be a difficult game. They haven’t been on the best run but we haven’t either and both will be trying to buck that trend.
“We want to get back on track and this is a break for both teams from league action and the battle to get points.
“It’s a chance to play against a bigger club, even though there are just 12 places between us, and hope we can turn our form around.
“The irony is we are favourites with the bookmakers but it’s 11 against 11, the league positions will have no bearing on it and if I get my team selection right, if we get our decision-making right and if we get our tactics right, then it could all come together to win the game.
“We are like Jekyll and Hyde at the moment, not in our performances but in our results, so this is an opportunity for us to get back on track.
“Kayden and Janoi may return which adds spice for the fans and the players and I expect a game of open and attractive football.”
The Blues have never played Stanley, who were League Two champions last season, in a competitive fixture.
Kayden Jackson joined the Blues from the Lancastrians for £1.6 million in the summer, while Janoi Donacien’s £750,000 permanent move has finally been confirmed following the receipt of his permanent leave to remain documentation. Both were members of the League Two title-winning side.
Blues defender Toto Nsiala had a loan spell with Accrington from Everton in the second half of the 2011/12 season and then joined them on a permanent basis the following summer, spending a further 18 months at the Crown Ground.
No current Accrington player has been with the Blues, although keeper-coach Tony Warner had a trial with Town in 1998. Last season in the FA Cup the Blues were beaten 1-0 at home by Sheffield United, their 13th match without a victory in the competition.
Saturday’s referee is Dean Whitestone from Northamptonshire, who has shown 70 yellow cards and three red in 23 games so far this season.
Whitestone’s last Town match was the Middlesbrough game at Portman Road in February 2012, which was abandoned after 37 minutes due to a frozen pitch with the score at 0-0.
Earlier that season, Whitestone was in charge of the 2-2 draw at Cardiff City in which he booked two Bluebirds and Michael Chopra and Keith Andrews.
He also refereed the 2-0 home defeat to Plymouth Argyle in March 2010 and the 1-1 draw at Reading in November 2009, keeping his cards in his pocket throughout on both occasions.
In November 2008 he awarded both sides a penalty as Town drew 1-1 at home to Sheffield United, both goals coming from the spot, booking only David Norris and Alan Quinn.
Squad from: Gerken, Bialkowski, Spence, Knudsen, Kenlock, Elder, Chambers (c), Pennington, Nsiala, Donacien, Chalobah, Downes, Dozzell, Nolan, Bishop, Edwards, Lankester, Rowe, Keane, Roberts, Sears, Jackson, Harrison.
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