Lambert to Make Changes as AFC Wimbledon Visit Portman Road
Monday, 19th Aug 2019 17:15
Town boss Paul Lambert says he’ll make “one or two” changes to his side as the Blues face AFC Wimbledon at Portman Road on Tuesday, the teams' first ever meeting, with games coming thick and fast.
“There’ll be one or two because of the number of games we have,” Lambert said. “Where I don’t want to get caught is when you play 10 or 15 games and somebody’s got to come in out of the cold and you’re asking them [to come straight in], it’s unfair on them. There’ll be one or two changes but I trust them to go and perform.
“If we play 15, 16, 17 games with the same team and two or three get injured and we ask two or three to come in, it’s really difficult for them to get up to speed.
“I trust them to go and perform, so that’s important for us because the number of games we have here is vast.”
After a couple of matches against expected challengers Sunderland and Peterborough, which ended in 1-1 and 2-2 draws respectively, the Blues now have a run of matches against less-fancied sides.
Having hosted the Dons, they then travel to crisis-hit Bolton - whose midweek game against Doncaster has been called off for player welfare reasons but with there being no suggestion of the Town match being in similar danger - and then take on Shrewsbury at home.
However, Lambert says he will be treating those fixtures no differently: “I think every game is tough. If people think the games are easy, no game’s easy. There’s never been a game I’ve been involved in that’s easy, so we need to treat everybody with respect.
“It’s going to be a tough game. We have to be where we are at the minute and keep on that front foot, the way we play.
“I’m happy with a lot of aspects of the game, there are one or two things where we can do a lot better, but we’ve got a young team as well, who, as I keep saying, are learning on the job and they’re getting better and better.
“There’s a decent little mix. The thing that does give me concern is the lack of numbers in the squad.”
He added: “We had that the first three games, everybody looks at certain blocks. Every game’s hard. Only look to the next game.
“We came [to Peterborough] and it was like a home game. I thought we did some really good things, some things we can do better and if we keep playing the way we are, we won’t be far away.”
Wimbledon are currently 18th in League One having drawn one - Saturday’s 1-1 at home to Accrington Stanley - and lost two having climbed away from the danger zone in the final weeks of last season and secured their place in the third tier on the final day of the campaign.
“It’s a hard game. They’re coming to our stadium, we’ll have a big crowd again and we’re playing well in a lot of aspects of the game,” Lambert continued.
“I’m happy with the team three games into the season, there are some really good things there. Young Idris [El Mizouni] came on [at Peterborough] and did some really good things, [Luke] Woolfenden again is getting better.
“There are a lot of good things there. If they can handle the pressure that’s on us and the target that’s on our back. If we don’t lose, you’re going to be in it.”
Among the familiar faces in the Dons squad is Irish midfielder Shane McLoughlin, who Lambert allowed to move on in January having come through the academy.
“I watched the kid in a few of the U23 games and he did fine, but the lad had to go and play games. Good luck to him,” the Blues boss added.
Tomas Holy is again set to start in goal with skipper Luke Chambers and Luke Woolfenden again likely to be the centre-halves.
Lambert could give new signing Kane Vincent-Young his debut at right-back although the former Colchester man was considered a doubt at the weekend with a toe injury. If not, Janoi Donacien will continue with Myles Kenlock again at left-back.
In midfield, the Blues boss may may want to stick with his central midfield duo of Cole Skuse and Flynn Downes, although may opt to move to a three, which could see Alan Judge or Idris El Mizouni play behind a lone striker.
That would probably be James Norwood with Kayden Jackson more likely to be the man to drop to the bench. If Lambert sticks with 4-4-2 Norwood and Jackson would continue their partnership.
Gwion Edwards looks set to be left out after two games in five days having not played since April with left midfield another area in which Judge could potentially return to the XI for the first time in the league this season. It might be a big ask for new loan signing Anthony Georgiou to make his first senior start so soon after joining the Blues.
Danny Rowe has started all three league games but could be another who is rested with El Mizouni and Andre Dozzell alternatives even if both prefer to play in the centre.
Having faced the Blues, AFC Wimbledon then make the trip to the North-East to take on Sunderland on Saturday.
“Of course [we’re looking forward to it],” manager Wally Downes told the London News Online when asked about the two fixtures.
“We wanted to be a League One team, and we are a League One team. Going to places like Sunderland and Ipswich is fantastic for the fans and fantastic for the players. We’ve got to go there and put on a good performance.
“We put a good performance on at Sunderland last year and was unfortunate to come away with a 1-0 defeat.
“I’m not sure, but I don’t think the club have ever played at Portman Road, so it’s going to be great going there on Tuesday. We need to certainly be at our best over the next week.”
He added: “They will certainly be powerful in this division. They have a great footballing tradition and it’s a wonderful stadium when it gets going.
"We will certainly have to be on our mettle to get something out of the game. We are going to have to be solid and strong."
Defender Will Nightingale (knee) and former Blues midfielder Anthony Wordsworth (achilles) have returned to training, however, are not yet ready but otherwise Downes has a full-strength squad to pick from.
Town and AFC Wimbledon have never met anywhere in a competitive or friendly fixture since the Dons’ formation in 2002. The Blues had sold 15,500 seats for the game as of Monday morning.
In addition to McLoughlin, who made one Championship sub appearance and one League Cup start for Town having come through the academy, the Wimbledon squad includes two more ex-Blues.
Wordsworth was at Town between January 2013 and June 2015, making 10 starts and 10 sub appearances, scoring twice.
Irish winger Dylan Connolly moved to Portman Road from Shelbourne in January 2015 before departing for Bray Wanderers in July 2016 without making a senior appearance.
Tuesday’s referee is Robert Jones from Merseyside, who has shown 12 yellow cards and no red in his three games so far this season.
Jones’s most recent Town match was the 3-0 defeat at Millwall in October just prior to Lambert taking charge in which he booked only Matthew Pennington.
Jones was also in charge of the East Anglian derby against Norwich City in September last year in which he booked Chambers, Jordan Graham and one Canary.
Jones refereed three Town matches prior to that, the 1-0 defeat at Brentford in April 2018 when he booked Jonas Knudsen, Callum Connolly, Cameron Carter-Vickers and two Bees.
Before that he was the man in the middle for the 1-0 victory over Leeds in January 2018 in which he red-carded Eunan O’Kane for head-butting Knudsen in the 37th minute. He also booked Dominic Iorfa, Connolly and two Whites players.
Jones was also the man in the middle for December 2017’s 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough when he showed two yellow cards to home players before being replaced by fourth official Geoff Eltringham at half-time.
Squad from: Holy, Norris, Donacien, Vincent-Young, Emmanuel, Kenlock, Clements, Chambers (c), Wilson, Woolfenden, Ndaba, Skuse, Downes, Dozzell, Huws, Nolan, Judge, Edwards, El Mizouni, Rowe, Roberts, Georgiou, Jackson, Norwood.
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