|Ipswich Town 1 v 1 Stoke City|
Saturday, 16th February 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Lambert: We Were Relentless in the Second Half
Saturday, 16th Feb 2019 18:14
Boss Paul Lambert praised his side for their “relentless” second-half display as the Blues drew 1-1 at home to Stoke City. Will Keane, watched by ex-Town manager and current Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy for the second time in four days having recently switched international allegiance, nodded the equaliser in injury time after James McClean had put the visitors in front just before the break.
“I thought we were excellent,” Lambert said. “We were up against a team I know really well and lads I know really well.
“There was nothing in the game, in the second half I thought we were relentless. I don’t think Stoke really caused many problems given the squad that they’ve got and the size of the club.
“We were relentless, young lads with energy and enthusiasm for the game. I thought it was no more than we deserved and don’t think anybody could begrudge us that, we were bang at it.”
Regarding McClean’s goal, which came after a mix-up between stand-in skipper Bartosz Bialkowski and Jonas Knudsen, he added: “That’s what happens. We’ve some young lads, we’ve got a lot of young lads in the team and they had a hard game on Wednesday night against another team which is going for promotion, when we were excellent.
“That’s two back-to-back games when I think we’ve been excellent. I couldn’t ask any more, I’m really proud of them.
“As I’ve said before, the atmosphere in the stadium was incredible. I don’t think you can go anywhere in world football and a team is at the bottom of the table and it’s got that support with it.”
He continued: “I don’t blame anybody because I’ve never have a blame culture. These things happen in certain moments, in certain situations but the response of the team when it could have been easy to go the other way was first class.
“I thought Judge was outstanding, I thought Keane and Quaner [were too]. These are lads that have not played much football at all, they’ve come in having not played many games.
“But the level of performance that we’ve shown over the last couple of games, Stoke and Derby, has been excellent.”
Lambert was full of praise for Keane for his header and for his overall performance.
“Brilliant,” he enthused. “I think he’s back to his Man United days. When I first saw Will coming through I thought he was an absolute handful.
“When he went to Preston on loan I thought he was excellent but then he got his injury.
“Will Keane’s hold-up play is fantastic. I think we’re playing really, really well and we’re well in the fight.”
Asked whether Town not creating too many chances during the spells of domination is his biggest frustration, Lambert responded: “Yes, but we came in November time, I’ve only been here three months.
“What we have done is generate a support that’s right behind us. Go anywhere, you don’t get support like that when you’re sitting bottom of the table.
“That dominance we’ve got, you can’t ask any more from the lads, but the final third, that just comes from a little bit anxiety at times, probably because of where we are in the table.
“If we were sitting mid-table, I’m pretty sure it would be totally different because players are more relaxed, they’re playing under incredible tension.
“But I’ll tell you what they don’t do, they never hide, which is the greatest thing for a footballer. Never ever hide, take the ball, never ever go away from it. Not one of the guys shies away from a football.”
Does he believe goals will eventually breed goals? “Absolutely. They’ve not been off the table since the start of the season but they’re fighting every time.
“I go back to the atmosphere, I’ve known an atmosphere like that, absolutely fantastic.”
Midfielder Teddy Bishop was making back-to-back starts for the first time since doing so in October and November 2016 and but for being subbed in injury time would have played a full 90 minutes for only the second time in the senior side.
“That’s a kid that’s not played for nearly two years,” Lambert reflected. “It’s not normal, two years the kid’s not really played for. He’s missed a helluva lot of football.
“He’s coming back, he’s not missed training since we’ve been in, he’s playing games now, which is great, and when you see him driving with the ball it’s a great sight, to watch a young player driving with the ball at his feet.
“I think he’s been excellent, I think if Bish stays injury free, he’s going to be a helluva player, but he’s played really minimal football, that’s the secret.”
With Keane and Alan Judge, who will also have caught McCarthy’s eye, impressing in recent games, fans are hoping the Blues can hang onto them.
Keane, who has said he’d be open to remaining at Portman Road, is on loan from Hull City but with his contract up at the end of the season, while Judge is on a short-term deal which includes an option for a further season.
Quizzed on whether he is confident that the pair might stay at Town, Lambert said: “You’d love to but the pound coin and these sorts of thing come into play.
“You can’t go and match a lot of wages, which is the reality of it, but we have to try and see what’s possible.
“If you look at Stoke’s squad for example. Some of the lads I know, some I don’t know. Incredible amount of money to spend.
“When I was there, I thought they should be good enough for the top two, easily for the top two with the lads that they had.
“But all of a sudden, things don’t work out, things change, people are changed, players come in, players go, still spend a helluva lot of money, but you wouldn’t have thought the disparity is as big as it is. But money, finances dictate a helluva part of the game.”
Judge said recently that the option is “more in the club’s favour”. Asked to explain that in more detail, Lambert said: “I think that’s what it is, it’s mostly with the club. Judgey’s summed it up the way he has said it.
“As I’ve said to you before, I don’t like too many loans, six loans is too many, it can create problems with picking teams and things like that.
“But I think the lads that have come in they look as if they really enjoy it here, love playing here, they enjoy the atmosphere here and I think everybody recognises that this is a really, really good club and if we can keep it up it’ll be brilliant.”
Stoke boss Nathan Jones was frustrated to have what would have been his second win - and first way from home - snatched away from him at the last.
“Disappointing, the manner of it," he said. "I didn’t think we had any problem all afternoon really, we should have been two or three-up at half-time, we had two glorious chances, Sam Vokes and Tom Ince, and it would have been done.
“We didn’t particularly play well in the second half, but I thought we defended well enough, limited them to very little and it’s a set play.
“In the 88th minute I put another centre-half on to make sure that whatever eventuality happens we’d have enough to cover that but it’s a little bit disappointing that we didn’t because we had three centre-halves on, we’ve had another 6ft 1 centre midfield player, a big centre-forward who has headed everything all day, and we couldn’t deal with one ball, and that’s the disappointing thing.”
He added: “We’ve come away from home, we’ve looked solid, but in both boxes we just had to be a bit better, exactly the same on Wednesday night [when they drew 0-0 with Wigan].
“We were totally comfortable on Wednesday night, we should have won the game quite comfortably but we didn’t because we missed chances, and today’s the same and then there was a sting in the tail.
“We’ve looked solid, we’ve defended well, that’s the positives to come from it, but we would have liked three points.”
Regarding his team's goal, he praised McClean for following the ball in and playing a part in forcing the mix-up between Bialkowski and Knudsen.
“It was a great head down from Sam Vokes which caused a little bit of concern and he followed the ball in," he continued.
“They would say it was a mistake, and rightly so, but we’ve had chances. I would have been quite prepared for them to have cleared that and for us to have scored the clear-cut chances we had in the first half. That’s just the disappointing thing.
“But we’ve come away from home, it’s a difficult place, as Derby showed in midweek, this is a difficult place to come when people are fighting for their lives and Paul’s got them fighting. It’s just disappointing to have had it snatched so late.”
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