|Preston North End 4 v 0 Ipswich Town|
Friday, 19th April 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Motivating Players No Problem for Lambert as Blues Visit Preston
Thursday, 18th Apr 2019 10:27
Town boss Paul Lambert doesn’t expect to have any problem lifting and motivating his players for their final four games of the season, starting at Preston North End on Good Friday, despite relegation to League One having been confirmed last weekend.
“I don’t think it’ll be difficult because they’re young,” Lambert said. “I think you’ll still get everything out them and all the enthusiasm that they generate and you’re going to have a great support.
“That’s the beauty of it, the supporters will come and get behind you and we’re going to do our best to try and win.
"It’s not as if we’re playing bad football we’re playing well, so I don’t have any problem trying to win games.”
He added: “There’s never been one game where I’ve been thinking they're not motivated.
“A player has got to motivate himself as well, it can’t always come from a manager. If you get an unmotivated player and he can’t motivate himself, then there’s a problem.
“It’s one thing I’ve never found here, everybody wants to play, and they all want to go, so I don’t have a problem with the lads.
"They’ll be ready for it. As I’ve said before, we’ve got a good support home and away, so we’ll be ready for it.”
Preston were Lambert’s first opponents as Town boss back in November when the teams drew 1-1, despite the visitors having been reduced to 10 men when keeper Chris Maxwell was sent off and forced to play the final 15 minutes with an outfielder in goal.
“I thought we deserved to win the game but they’ve had a good season,” the Town manager recalled. “And Preston is a tough game. We’ve had too many draws that’s been our problem.”
Lambert has said he’ll utilise his squad over the Easter weekend so second-guessing his team at Deepdale isn't a simple matter.
Bartosz Bialkowski will continue in goal with Myles Kenlock and Josh Emmanuel again likely to be the full-backs.
Skipper Luke Chambers will be one of the centre-halves with Toto Nsiala perhaps the favourite to line-up alongside him with Lambert having said James Collins is struggling for Friday.
The Blues boss has confirmed that U23s skipper Corrie Ndaba, 19, will be handed his senior debut at some point in the final four matches and it is certainly possible that the Irish U21 call-up could start alongside Chambers at Deepdale.
In midfield, Cole Skuse could take up the deeper role with two of Jon Nolan, who is back in training after an achilles injury and illness, Teddy Bishop, Flynn Downes, Trevoh Chalobah, Andre Dozzell or perhaps Idris El Mizouni in the other two positions.
Lambert has used the 18-year-old Tunisia U23 international from the bench and is considering giving him his first start in the final weeks of the campaign.
Up front, Collin Quaner seems likely to be the central striker with Will Keane probably not ready to start. The on-loan Hull City man, who has been back in training after his hamstring injury, seems set to be on the bench against one of his former loan clubs.
Alan Judge seems certain to be on the left with Gwion Edwards likely to continue on the right.
Preston go into the game 12th with their season effectively over from a competitive perspective having lost their last four matches, two home, two away. The Lilywhites are eight points off the play-offs and 17 points clear of the relegation zone.
Boss Alex Neil says he will now look towards their 2019/20 season when he makes his team selections.
“We have to start thinking like bigger clubs do,” he told the Lancashire Evening Post. “What big clubs do when they haven’t reached their goals, like we haven’t got to the play-offs, they start to plan for next year.
“The immediate games are still important to us but the longer-term strategy is even more important.
“In the next four games it would be negligent if I didn’t look at some of the other lads for next season.
“Unless I see them playing in games, how will I know if they are going to be ready and good enough for next season? That may come at a cost and the proof will be in the pudding.
“Naturally you want to win these games to finish strongly. However, if you asked me now, ‘Finish this one strongly or be in the best position to get success next year?’ there is only going to be one winner for me.”
The Lilywhites will be without the suspended Ben Pearson, while Andrew Hughes, Brandon Barker (both hamstring), Tom Barkhuizen, Billy Bodin, Brad Potts and Josh Harrop (all knee) have all been ruled out for the season.
Blues loanee striker Keane was on loan at Preston from Manchester United during the first half of 2015/16, making 14 starts and eight sub appearances, scoring once.
Former Town academy keeper Michael Crowe joined Preston last summer after his release by the Blues. The former Wales U21 international has made only one FA Cup appearance for the Lilywhites this season.
Blues assistant boss Stuart Taylor worked with Preston manager Neil at Hamilton Academical.
Historically, results are very balanced, Town having won 13 games (12 in the league) between the sides while Preston have been victorious on 13 (11) occasions and 11 (10) matches have ended in draws. The Blues are currently unbeaten in eight in the league against the Lilywhites.
In Paul Lambert’s first game in charge of Town at Portman Road in November, the Blues and 10-man Preston drew 1-1.
Freddie Sears gave Town the lead from the penalty spot just before the break but sub Paul Gallagher equalised for the visitors on 73, who had keeper Chris Maxwell sent off in the 75th minute.
Gallagher took over in goal with North End having used all their subs but the Blues rarely looked like finding a winner in the closing stages.
The teams last met at Deepdale in February last year when Mustapha Carayol’s full debut goal saw Town to a 1-0 victory, only the then-play-off-chasing home side’s second defeat in 18 league games.
The Blues might have led by more after the first half, the January 2018 signing netting what proved to be the winner on 21, before comfortably seeing out the second half, their match-winner, who had been ill earlier in the week, having been subbed at the break.
Friday’s referee is Stephen Martin from Staffordshire, who has shown 80 yellow cards and three red in 31 games so far this season.
Martin’s most recent Town match was the 3-2 home defeat to Millwall on New Year’s Day in which he booked only Lions sub Steve Morison.
Prior to that he was in charge of the 0-0 home draw with Bolton in September last year in which he red-carded Trotters’ defender Marc Wilson and booked Tayo Edun and Trevoh Chalobah.
He also refereed the 2-2 draw with Millwall at Portman Road in April 2018 in which he booked Carayol, Jordan Spence, Stephen Gleeson and Martyn Waghorn and no Lions.
Previously he was in control of the 1-1 draw at Barnsley in March 2017 when Skuse was shown the game’s only yellow card.
Two months earlier he had been in charge of the 1-1 draw at Preston in which he booked two home players and no Blues.
Martin also refereed the 1-0 defeat at Leeds in September 2016 in which he booked only Christophe Berra and Kevin Bru.
Before that Martin was the man in the middle of the 2-0 defeat at Brentford the previous month in which he yellow-carded Adam Webster.
Martin also officiated in the 1-0 home defeat to Rotherham in March that year, in which he booked Knudsen and one Miller.
He also took control of the 2-1 home victory over Fulham on the opening day of 2014/15 in which he cautioned Berra, Tyrone Mings and Luke Hyam.
Martin refereed the 2-0 home victory over Brighton in September 2013, when he booked only one visiting player, and the 2-1 loss at Bristol City in the January of that year, in which he showed a single yellow card to one of the home side.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Bree, Emmanuel, Kenlock, Collins, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Nsiala, Ndaba, Skuse, Chalobah, Downes, Nolan, Dozzell, Bishop, El Mizouni, Edwards, Dawkins, Judge, Quaner, Jackson, Keane.
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