|West Bromwich Albion 1 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 9th March 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Lambert Aiming for Positive Late Season Run
Friday, 8th Mar 2019 10:41
Town boss Paul Lambert hopes the Blues can finish the season with a positive run in their last 11 games - starting with Saturday’s trip to fourth-placed West Bromwich Albion - even if the fight against relegation now appears a battle which is unlikely to be won.
“If we can go on a little run, then whatever happens happens at the end of it, it would be great,” Lambert said.
“We’ll try everything we can. We know it’s difficult but we need the support. We don’t have a game without them, that’s important.
“There’s not one person at this club can never ever point the finger [and say] that support has never got behind us.
“We had 23,000 there at the weekend for the Reading match, a team that’s bottom of the division. We had more than Burnley had against Crystal Palace, which indicates the size of the support and that it’s right with us.
“The support here is phenomenal, it really is. If you can keep that feeling and whatever happens, everything being OK, they’ll definitely come back.
“But I think the football club at the minute has got a good feeling around it, it just has to keep that.”
Reflecting on last week’s 2-1 loss to the Royals which all but confirmed relegation to the third tier for the first time since the 1956/57 campaign - Town are 12 points plus goal difference from safety - Lambert admits it was a huge blow to concede in the 90th minute for the second successive week, having previously grabbed a point via Will Keane’s late header against Stoke.
“It’s frustrating because we did it to Stoke and then got it against us against Wigan and Reading. Those things become frustrating,” he said.
“Football-wise, I can honestly say there’s nobody really outplayed us. We’ve always been the team that’s been on the front foot.
“We’ve had to weather storm at certain times but we’ve managed to do it. We’ve just lack that cutting edge and been defensively not as strong as we’ve should have been. I think that’s what’s let us down in this whole campaign.”
Lambert, whose record in his 21 games since taking over at Portman Road reads won two, drawn six, lost 13, has been disappointed that results have failed to match performances, which he feels have generally been good since he took charge in October.
“Massively because it’s a results game,” he reflected. “There are two ways to look at it. We’ve been playing well but at both ends of the pitch I think we’ve let ourselves down, on defending and not taking our chances when we’ve had chances.
“We had a load of chances at the weekend and never took them and we never defended strongly enough for the two goals.
“If you take away goals in football, we’re a good side. But you’ve got to score and you’ve got to keep them out and that ain’t going to change so we have to be more clinical in both boxes.”
Town are without a win in eight matches and securing what would be only their fourth victory of the season and their second away from home - they beat Swansea back in October under Paul Hurst - is a tough ask against Albion, despite their surprise 4-0 thrashing at Leeds last week.
Lambert still believes the Baggies, who are nine points off the top and seven points from second, are in with a shout of automatic promotion.
“Without a doubt,” he insisted. “I think [manager] Darren [Moore]’s done great. It’s OK saying they’ve got a Premier League squad but you’ve still got to manage those lads.
“I’m pretty sure he’s got a lot of big players there but I like Darren, I think he comes across really well and I think they’ve got a really good side.
“They’ve kept most of the lads that were relegated, Salomon Rondon left and James McClean left but their team is strong and the squad’s strong.
“But again, the division dictates anybody can beat anybody in it. On any given day, if you drop your guard in this division you lose.
“Nobody expected Leeds to beat them 4-0 last week and maybe the edginess comes into their game now in terms of there being so many games left and they’re not in that top two yet, the play-offs might not get you out of the division. They’ve got that to contend with.
“They’ve got an incredible expectancy level on them and we’ve got nothing to lose. We go there with no fear, we go and play our game.”
Might the Baggies be in danger of underestimating the Blues given their position at the bottom of the table? “There could be that, maybe. I don’t know, but the edginess of the crowd and if we can get on top, then let’s see what happens.”
Saturday’s game will see Lambert restored to the dugout after his two-match touchline ban which saw him banished to the stands.
“It was horrible, really horrible up there, it really was, it was terrible,” he said.
“I didn’t like being up there. You can’t do anything, it’s actually worse up in the stand than what it is in the technical area, so I’m looking forward to jumping around again.”
Bartosz Bialkowski will continue in goal but Lambert has decisions to make in his defence with the three-man backline having worked well at Wigan prior to Jonas Knudsen’s red card but having been less effective in the first half against Reading last week.
However, with Knudsen returning from his suspension, Lambert may well opt to stick with it at the Hawthorns.
The Danish international would probably come into the side for James Collins, who is a doubt with the calf injury he suffered last week. Skipper Luke Chambers and Matthew Pennington would be the other centre-halves, and Myles Kenlock and James Bree the wing-backs.
In midfield, Trevoh Chalobah is a concern going into the match with the thigh problem he picked up against the Royals and so could be replaced by Cole Skuse.
Jon Nolan seems likely to continue with Teddy Bishop and Alan Judge also starting. Last week Bishop began the game in a role off lone striker Collin Quaner but Judge may be more suited to that position and could start there against the Baggies.
If Lambert decides to return to a four-man backline, Knudsen could move to left-back, although Lambert has praised Kenlock’s recent performances.
Gwion Edwards could be in contention for a start having impressed from the bench recently with Judge also in one of the wide roles if the Town boss decides on either a 4-3-3 or 4-4-1-1 system.
West Brom, who have lost their last two, 1-0 at home to Sheffield United prior to that 4-0 reverse at Leeds, are expected to have winger Matty Phillips back in contention for a place following an ankle injury which saw him miss the defeat at Elland Road, but left-back Kieran Gibbs is rated at 50/50 due to a hip problem.
Stefan Johansen could be back after missing the Leeds game due to illness and Chris Brunt following a calf problem, while James Morrison could start having come off the bench against the Whites after a spell out with an ankle injury.
Albion are without a win in their last five at home where they have been inconsistent all season, winning seven, losing four and drawing six and they have picked up six more points away, 33, than they have at home, 27.
Boss Moore wants to see an improvement in their final six games at the Hawthorns, starting with the fixture with the Blues and Wednesday’s home match against Swansea.
“We want to try and make The Hawthorns a fortress because it’s our home stadium, we’re in front of our home fans,” he told The Express & Star. “There’s still a lot of work and we’ll continue to work towards every kick of the season.”
Despite the seven-point gap to the top two the former central defender isn’t giving up on a late burst which would put them in automatic promotion contention.
“Everybody’s competing, but it won’t just be us,” he added. “There’s so many teams in the division, probably ones that you’ve not even considered or are talking about, that are preparing themselves to try and get a run of games together.
“It’s safe to say that we’ll see all teams competing right the way through to the last kick of the season."
At Portman Road in November, Kayden Jackson netted his third goal of the season five minutes from time but the Blues fell to a 2-1 defeat to West Brom, who climbed to second.
Jay Rodriguez gave the visitors the lead on 26, now-departed loanee Harvey Barnes doubled the margin in the 77th minute before sub Jackson made the most of a Tosin Adarabioyo error to pull a goal back for Town, who almost claimed what earlier had seemed an unlikely point when another sub Jack Lankester hit the post with a freekick deep in injury time.
The teams last met at The Hawthorns in August 2009 at the start of a season in which Albion marched into the Premier League when Town were defeated 2-0 with Youssuf Mulumbu and Robert Koren on the scoresheet.
Overall, Town have won 33 games between the sides (30 in the league), West Brom 22 (21) with 16 (14) ending in draws.
One member of the Baggies’ squad has played for the Blues, midfielder Jake Livermore, who made eight starts and four sub appearances for Town during a loan spell between September 2010 and January 2011.
Full-back Conor Townsend was the subject of an offer from the Blues in the summer but they lost out to the Baggies when the former Hull City man left Scunthorpe.
Saturday’s referee is Andy Woolmer from Northamptonshire, who has shown 65 yellow cards and four red in 21 games so far this season.
Woolmer’s last Town match was the 1-1 draw at home to Sheffield United in December in which he cautioned Chalobah, Jordan Spence and two of the visitors.
The previous month he was also at Portman Road for the 1-1 draw with Preston in Lambert’s first game in charge of the Blues in which he red-carded Lilywhites keeper Chris Maxwell for a second bookable offence and also showed yellow cards to Chambers, Pennington, Edwards, Freddie Sears and two other visiting players.
Prior to that he was in charge of the 3-0 victory over QPR in November 2016 in which he booked Tom Lawrence and three opposition players.
Before that he refereed the pre-season friendly at Cambridge United in July the same year and the 1-0 home victory over Nottingham Forest in the Championship in the previous March in which he booked Luke Hyam and four of the visitors.
Two months earlier he had taken control of the 2-1 FA Cup replay defeat at Portsmouth in which he red-carded Piotr Malarczyk for two bookable offences - the only yellow cards of the night - and also awarded a penalty against the Polish defender.
He also took control of the 2-1 win at Wigan in September 2014 in which he booked only Tyrone Mings and Christophe Berra.
Woolmer also refereed the 3-3 pre-season friendly draw at Notts County in July 2013 and the 3-0 victory over Bristol City at Portman Road in the Championship in March 2012 in which he booked three Town players and four Robins.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Bree, Emmanuel, Spence, Kenlock, Pennington, Collins, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Nsiala, Skuse, Chalobah, Downes, Dozzell, Nolan, Bishop, Edwards, Dawkins, Judge, Quaner, Jackson.
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