Lambert: Outstanding First Half as Well as We've Played
Tuesday, 17th Sep 2019 22:58
Boss Paul Lambert felt his side’s “outstanding” first-half display as they defeated MK Dons 1-0 at Stadium MK was as well as they’ve played this season.
Town were very much on top in the opening period during which Jon Nolan netted the only goal, before being forced to defend after the break as the Dons improved, but the Blues backline held out to confirm their third away win of the season
“The first half was outstanding, the best we’ve played I think since the start of the season. The first half was brilliant, the way we played,” Lambert said.
“A lot of pluses there with Emyr [Huws] and Nolan and [Luke] Garbutt coming back. The only risk with those three was their fitness levels. But I thought they were excellent the three lads. It was brilliant goal.
“The second half was a brilliant performance due to the defending. We were resolute, really, really strong and we looked not bad on the counter. But in the first half I thought we should have been out of sight.”
Lambert agreed that the first half display deserved more than the single goal lead: “Yes, because we were playing well. We had so many good moments, we were dominant in the game.
“As I’ve said before, the lads have got a target on their backs and they’re going to have it to the end of the season because of the size of the club.
“Rightly or wrongly, people will portray that how they want. But just because we’re a big club in name doesn’t matter. If it was that easy Sunderland would have gone up last year.
“It doesn’t matter, we’ve got a young side there, lads who haven’t played in the league before, the first time for some of them. Guys who are just starting their careers. But the level we’ve been playing is extremely high.”
Lambert confirmed he started with a back three before quickly moving Cole Skuse into midfield.
“We saw their team, we planned to play in a back three,” he added. “But I saw they only played one up top and I said ‘If you see that happening, step into the middle of the pitch’ and that’s what happened.”
Regarding goalscorer Nolan, Lambert was delighted to see the Liverpudlian get on the scoresheet: “He’s made his career out of it and he’s been brilliant. The lad’s just back [from injury], I thought he was outstanding, I really did.
“He’s not played for a helluva long time and to play the way he did, I was really pleased with him.”
Lambert was pleased to have been able to make four changes but still name a similarly strong side.
“We need all the guys, you can’t rely on 18 guys, we need everybody,” he continued. “I know it’s hard at times when you’ve got to wait your turn, but I need everybody. I said before, if you sacrifice the me for the we we’ve got a chance.”
Lambert also stressed the importance of the clean sheet, Town’s fourth in a row: “It’s tough, it’s a tough, tough division with the number of games we have. And the big thing we’ve got is that we’re every team’s cup final. It’s every team’s cup final against us. Look at our support, that support’s extraordinary.”
The Blues manager had praise for centre-half James Wilson: “I thought it was his best game, I thought he and Chambo were excellent. All the back lads, I thought they were excellent, I couldn’t complain about that one bit.
“I thought we were really, really good defensively and even in the first half I thought we had a lot of the ball at the back as well and we made really good use of it.”
The one negative was James Norwood’s first-half injury, which Lambert says is related to a problem he suffered while with Tranmere.
“It’s his groin, he had a problem with it last season,” he said. “But knowing Nors, the way he is and the way he wants to keep playing, we’ll see how he is.”
Lambert was able to call on Will Keane in his place, however, he says the former Hull City man is still a little way off his best having undergone hamstring surgery early in the summer.
“He’s one [who has been out longest], he’s the biggest one for us, we don’t know how he is. We need to see how he is but that’s his first real game since he got injured at Sheffield United [on the penultiate day of last season].”
Myles Kenlock, ever-present in the league before today, was left out of the 18 and Lambert says the left-back has to win back his place in the team.
“He’s got to fight to get back in,” he challenged the academy product. “And I think it’ll have done Myles the world of good giving him a rest.
“The kid’s been playing week in, week out. I think his level, maybe he’s not quite hit the heights he did last year but he’ll come back and he’ll be stronger for it. It’s not a bad thing getting left out.”
Dons boss Paul Tisdale felt his team did everything other than score a goal.
“I’m disappointed we got nothing from it because I think we deserved to,” he said.
“I don’t think we started badly, they just did a very good job on us. A game of football is never the same from the start through to the finish and you have to be able to adapt and navigate your way through.
“It was a change of style at half-time. It wasn’t a critique on the first half or the players that came off – I mean, Joe Walsh was one of our best players in the first half - it was about changing the style.
"We did that and with a bit more craft and luck, we could have scored.
“We all saw the game – we did everything but score. We didn’t get the goal and the goals are, of course, the most important factor in any game, but in terms of the contribution, I think we found our feet and we tried really hard.
“We have to find a way to work through that type of situation better. We’ve got to find a way in future to come away with something in a game like that but there’s plenty to work with.”
He added: “[The players] are cross, agitated and frustrated and that’s a good sign.
“It’s also a good sign that we’re playing against a top of the table team, who are surely going to be a contender, and we’ve made them hang on for 50 minutes, if not longer.
"I think that’s a compliment to our players and the way we made the game turn in our favour.
“Well done to the players and well done to the supporters for getting behind us. As I’ve said, plenty to work with.”
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