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Town Travel to Southend Aiming to Return to Winning Ways
Friday, 25th Oct 2019 14:33

Town visit second-bottom Southend United on Saturday looking to end a run of two successive defeats which saw them slip off the top of League One.

The Blues go into the match at Roots Hall second on goal difference behind new leaders Peterborough United but with a game in hand.

Prior to last week’s 2-0 defeat at Accrington, which was followed by a loss by the same scoreline to Rotherham on Wednesday, the Blues were unbeaten in League One.

But despite the shock of those two results, Lambert says his players have been in good spirits over the last couple of days.

“Fine, they've been fine,” he said. “You analyse it and then you let it go, and you have to go again. They know, we spoke about it the other day, they know exactly what the difference is between the last two games and the previous 11.”

Does he see those two games as a blip and has confidence that he and his squad can put the results behind them? “We have to. We have to go and try and win. We'll have a massive following there again.

“As I said before, there will be bumps and bruises along the way, but we've started really well and we've still got a game in hand, so we're in a good position.

"If someone said to me in the beginning of the season we’d be in this position I'd say that was OK.”

What does he feel has been the problem in the last two matches? “On the basics we’ve not hit the heights that we should have been hitting. In the last 11 games or so we’ve been bang at it on everything we’ve done.

“The last two I don’t think we’ve had that thing that we had in the other 11 games. But we spoke about it yesterday and we know where we think we’ve been going wrong.

“But we also know you’re never going to get games where you’re going to dominate and are going to win every time, it’s impossible.

“You take these little hits here and there. But over the piece, the lads have been absolutely fantastic.”

He says it’s been a balancing act of highlighting what’s been bad in the last two performances, while reminding the players of what’s been positive in the previous games.

“That’s basically it because all the good things outweigh the negative stuff,” he continued. “I’m experienced enough to know how to handle a win and handle a defeat. We just try and pass that on to the team, what we think.

“I said before, I’m so happy with how they’ve gone about it, we’re sitting in a really good position, we’ve got a game in hand and we’re still a really good side.”

Lambert concurred that the reaction to the two defeats illustrates that expectations have grown from the start of the season and certainly from the last campaign.

“Yes, that’s football,” he reflected. “We’ve set an unbelievably high standard and when that happens people wonder what’s happened there. It’s human nature.

“I heard Jurgen Klopp saying it the other day, Liverpool’s 100 per cent] record goes and he just laughs because you know it’s coming, at some stage you know it’s coming, you just don’t know when.

“But as long as there’s not a major over hype over what happened, because it happens, there’s no point getting down about it because it’s going to happen.

"It’s just a matter of keeping a level head with it and going through and turning it back around again.

“I do the same as when I win a game, I never dwell on it or get caught up in it. I win it, and then we go again. I’ve never been like that in my career, so I don’t see myself changing.”

Southend have endured a tough start to the season and sit second-bottom having won fewer points than Bolton below them, the Trotters having been subject to a 12-point deduction following their financial troubles.

Manager Kevin Bond, who was appointed in May, resigned early in September with Sol Campbell having been named the new boss - with ex-Blues defender Hermann Hreidarsson as his assistant coach - on Tuesday.

Campbell watched his new side lose 7-1 to Doncaster after being reduced to nine men at Roots Hall that night with Saturday the former England defender’s first match in charge.

“It's a different one for us because obviously, they have a new manager so it might be totally different,” Lambert reflected.

“We're not sure because that's what happens when a new manager comes in. For me, it's not important because while you respect them, we have to go down there and play our game and play the way we play and be the way we want to be, that's the most important thing.”

Will the buzz around the big-name new Shrimpers boss make it tougher for the Blues on the day?

“It could, but it's still the same group of guys,” Lambert reflected. “I don't really get caught up in ‘new manager syndrome’ even when I become a new manager myself or am playing against one. It's about our own team and how we perform.”

Campbell has said he will be looking to stem the flow of goals, the Essex side having conceded a massive 40 goals - 12 more than Bolton - in 14 league games this season.

“I think that will be a big factor in their heads, they’re losing a lot of goals, they lost seven the other night,” he continued.

“I don't know what he will do or anything like that, but my main concern is us and us getting back to winning ways.”

He added: “We know what we’ve got to do tomorrow, we know how we want to play. We know the principles of how we want to do it and if we get back to that we will go down there with the support behind us.

“It’s about us on Saturday, it’s not about Southend or their new manager, it’s about how we apply ourselves.”

Despite the two defeats, Lambert expects another sell-out 2,500-strong away support to get firmly behind his team.

“I think they will,” he said. “The connection with the club’s there now and the support will be right behind us, I don’t think it’s like what happened before because they see lads that will give them everything they’ve got.

“The biggest thing for me is the connection and bringing them back and them enjoying their football and them being the way they are.

“Whether it’s young guys, older guys, women, girls, it doesn’t really matter who comes as long as they support the team and that they get behind us.

“I’m really happy with the support, I’m really happy with the numbers that are turning up, I’m really happy with how they’re supporting the team. I’ve got nothing but praise for them because the club was really, really low before we came in.”

Lambert switched from his wing-back system to a four-man backline and four in midfield - used in a variety of ways over the course of the game - against Rotherham but says whatever formation he employs isn’t the be-all and end-all.

“We analyse everything,” he said. “We’ve played 4-4-2, we’ve played 4-3-3, I’ve played three at the back, I’ve played four in the middle, I’ve played five in the middle.

“The principles are still the same. The system doesn’t make any difference, it’s the principles of my way of playing that’s the most important thing.

“We’ve won games with [3-5-2], we’ve lost games with it. We’ve won games with 4-4-2, we’ve drawn games with 4-4-2, with 4-3-3 we were getting beaten 1-0 by Wimbledon and then we changed it.

“But it’s the principle, that’s the main thing for me, the principle of what we believe in to win games.”

Tomas Holy is again set to start in goal and Lambert could revert back to the 3-5-2 following Wednesday’s loss.

James Wilson, who signed a new contract this week, and Luke Woolfenden are likely to start either side of skipper Luke Chambers with Kane Vincent-Young and Luke Garbutt the wing-backs.

In midfield, Flynn Downes looks set to return after his hip injury with Cole Skuse and Jon Nolan the other regular starters.

James Norwood could also be back in the XI following his groin surgery partnering Kayden Jackson.

New Shrimpers boss Campbell says there are some decent players in the squad he is inheriting but feels they need to start working from the simple stuff upwards.

“There’s some good players here but we have to get back together and get back to basics too,” he told the Southend Echo. “Sometimes you’d be surprised how many of the basic things go out the window.

“They think they’re insignificant but if you let one thing go, then another one goes after that and then all of a sudden it falls apart and you get used to how it is. But then someone comes in and says this is not how it should be.

“We’ve got to change a lot of stuff. We need to be more structured and we need to be on it every day. We can’t waste any moment in training or on the pitch and we have to go for it.

“The guys haven’t been training at their proper capacity and there’s a lot left in the tank. If you’re not stretching yourself in training then come Saturday you’re going to be short. They’ve also got to be well drilled and that comes from training and demanding more.”

Campbell knows that the number of goals the Shrimpers are conceding is something which desperately needs to be addressed.

“To slow down the goal count against us is one of the first things I have to look at,” he admitted.

“The goal difference is getting bigger and bigger and we have to slow that down. It’s not just the backline though, it’s the whole team and how it’s structured.

“We have to look at starting positions and everything else because we have to stop leaking goals. But we have to give teams problems too as we’re not really testing teams.”

Despite what looks a daunting challenge to keep Southend in League One - they currently have only five points and have won just once, a 1-0 away victory against the MK Dons - the former Arsenal and Tottenham man is pleased to be back in management having left Macclesfield in August having secured the Silkmen's League Two status last season.

“I’m happy to be here, it’s another challenge and it’s one I’m ready to take on,” he continued. “It’s great to be back in football. I met [Southend chairman] Ron [Martin] and we had a good conversation and a good connection.

“He’s thought about it, I thought about it and it was like a boomerang really as it came back again. It’s quite nice and it was meant to be.”

Campbell will be without midfielders Ethan Hamilton and Stephen McLaughlin, the duo who were red-carded in the hammering by Doncaster on Tuesday.

Centre-half Harry Lennon is also suspended having picked up his fifth yellow card of the season against the South Yorkshiremen.

In addition, the Shrimpers have something of an injury crisis with ex-Blue Luke Hyam (achilles), Liam Ridgewell (calf), Sam Mantom (hamstring), Layton Ndukwu (hamstring), Charlie Kelman (ankle), Sam Barratt (cruciate ligament), Harry Kyprianou (achilles), John White (broken arm) and Lewis Gard (cruciate ligament) all sidelined.

Historically, the league record between the sides couldn’t be closer with Town having won 10, the Shrimpers 10 and with another 10 matches having ended in draws. The Blues won the only cup tie between the teams, in the Littlewoods Cup in 1987, 1-0 at home.

The teams last met at Portman Road in March 2007 when Town fell to a controversial 2-0 defeat.

Mark Gower put the visitors ahead with the Blues appealing for an offside and still protesting the lack of an earlier penalty award, then Peter Clarke added another from a set piece. Late on Alan Lee was sent off for handling the ball into the net.

Last time at Roots Hall, in October of the previous year, the Blues beat the Shrimpers 3-1, Billy Clarke, Sylvain Legwinski and Lee scoring for Town and Simon Francis pulling one back for the home side.

New Southend first-team coach Hreidarsson made 137 starts and one sub appearance for the Blues, scoring three times, between August 2000 and March 2003.

The centre-half or left-back was a member of the side which finished fifth in the Premier League in 2000/01 and played in the UEFA Cup in the following two seasons.

Ipswich-born former Town midfielder Hyam came through the Blues’ youth system and went on to make 118 starts and 40 sub appearances, scoring four goals.

The former Northgate High School pupil joined the Shrimpers after being released by Town in the summer of 2018 but has made only 18 starts and nine sub appearances so far, netting one goal, and is currently injured.

Left-back Nathan Ralph was an academy schoolboy with the Blues and featured for the reserves before being released at 16 in 2009 when he joined Peterborough’s youth set-up on a scholarship.

Since then Dunmow-born Ralph has played for Kettering (loan), Yeovil, Newport, Aldershot (loan), Woking and Dundee before moving to Roots Hall in the summer.

Saturday’s referee is Andy Davies from Hampshire, who has shown 29 yellow cards and no red in 10 games so far this season.

Davies’s last Town match was the 2-0 defeat at Brentford in April when he booked Toto Nsiala and one home player.

He was also the man in the middle for last season’s opening day 2-2 draw with Blackburn at Portman Road in which he booked Chambers and Ellis Harrison as well as three visiting players.

Prior to that Davies was at Portman Road for the 1-0 defeat to Cardiff in February 2018 in which he booked only one Bluebird.

He also took charge of the 0-0 home draw with QPR on Boxing Day 2017 in which he dismissed visitors' midfielder Josh Scowen in the closing stages for a second yellow card and booked Jonas Knudsen.

Davies also refereed the game between the Blues and Rangers at Loftus Road in September of the same year when he booked Callum Connolly, Downes and one home player as well as making an error for Rangers’ opening goal when he failed to spot an obvious handball by Massimo Luongo as the home side ran out 2-1 winners.

A month earlier he refereed the 2-1 Carabao Cup defeat at Crystal Palace in which he again booked Downes but otherwise kept his cards in his pocket.

Before that he took control of the 3-0 loss at Nottingham Forest on the final day of 2016/17 in which he cautioned Christophe Berra and Josh Emmanuel.

He was also in charge of the 3-0 home victory over Wigan in April 2017, in which he yellow-carded Grant Ward, Myles Kenlock, Toumani Diagouraga and two Latics, and the 2-0 defeat at Huddersfield three months earlier in which he booked Berra, Kevin Bru, Tom Lawrence, Jonathan Douglas, Paul Digby and no home players.

Davies’s two other Town matches both ended goalless and saw the opposition reduced to 10 men.

He officiated in the 0-0 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion in September 2016, in which he showed eight yellow cards, two of them and then a red to Seagulls midfielder Dale Stephens. Chambers, Emmanuel, Douglas and Lawrence were the Town players cautioned.

Prior to that, he was in charge of the 0-0 home draw with Huddersfield in October 2015 when he red-carded Terriers striker James Vaughan for a second bookable offence in the final minute.

Squad from: Holy, Norris, Vincent-Young, Edwards, Donacien, Garbutt, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Wilson, Nsiala, Woolfenden, Skuse, Downes, Dozzell, Huws, Nolan, Judge, Rowe, Georgiou, Jackson, Norwood, Keane.

Photo: TWTD

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ITFCsince73 added 17:52 - Oct 25
With that squad of players to pick from.
And how abysmal Southend have been.
Should.....Should be a comfortable win.

ShropshireBluenago09 added 17:56 - Oct 25
Get Wolfy, Norwood and Downes back in ASAP

Bert added 18:10 - Oct 25
I'm still none the wiser about what PL thinks went wrong in the last week. I really rate the guy and the connection he has made between club and supporters but he can't keep banging on about our incredible support and where we were a year ago if he doesn't share his conclusions about the last two games (not his tactics) with us. Don't get me wrong, he has turned our club round but I want to hear some realism from him when we have obviously had a poor week with too many players having consecutive off days. Hopefully this is a blip and we get back to winning ways at Southend by addressing the issues and matching the physicality that league one teams are all about.

Dissboyitfc added 21:07 - Oct 25
well i am glad the players feel fine about it! i still feel sick about it in all honesty. Just need a win for the taste to go away!

ITFCsince73 added 21:09 - Oct 25
Add to that, 12 players missing who would otherwise be in the Southend squad.
A comfortable hammering should be on the cards.

TimmyH added 21:49 - Oct 25
If we don't get the win we know what PL will put it down to - the new manager Campbell curse and his team of Cole and Hreidarsson and not down to us.

portmanteau added 21:59 - Oct 25
This is one to watch from behind the sofa... Sol and the great Herman in charge, Southend busting to prove they are worthy of them and playing out of their skins.

jas0999 added 08:13 - Oct 26
Anything less than a win would be extremely disappointing. Let's hope for a comfortable afternoon against a very poor Southend side.

Dissboyitfc added 08:28 - Oct 26
Should be 3 points, but how often do we win the nailed on for 3 points?

Things come along in 3's, i hope i am wrong!

Fingers crossed for a win and back to the top!!

cornishblu added 10:27 - Oct 26
Gutted not to be there with the cornish contingent ......#notenoughtickets
Trust all enjoy and we come way with 3 points and a decent goal difference to rebalance the last couple of results

DifferentGravy added 12:06 - Oct 26
Really good comment Bert

Think we have the players but confidence has been knocked by tactics/selections and performances of last two games. 3 shots at home was really concerning.

Come on you blues. May the horse be with you....always

runningout added 12:52 - Oct 26
Many thought Accrington and Rotherham games would be comfortable wins.. If our players expect that more bleakness will follow... If our players are professional we stand very good chance of success come May

planetblue_2011 added 13:05 - Oct 26
Yes definitely go for 3-5-2 and the team it says on here. That was our last team on the good run up to Fleetwood game. Georgio, judge & Keane good players to come on at some stage.
Come on town pls turn it around today👏⚽️

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