Town Aiming to Banish Post-International Break Blues Against Blackpool
Friday, 22nd Nov 2019 15:23
Town return to League One action against Blackpool on Saturday looking to end another of their hoodoos, their failure to win any of their last 21 league matches immediately after an international break. Earlier this week they halted a 15-game winless FA Cup run stretching back almost 10 years by beating Lincoln 1-0 at Sincil Bank.
The Blues most recently won immediately after a week off for internationals in September 2014 when they beat Millwall 2-0 at Portman Road. They have subsequently drawn 10 and lost 11, most recently at Accrington last month.
Asked what he thinks might be behind the post-international break blues, manager Paul Lambert said: “It just happens. Sometimes it happens, sometimes you get results. I’ve been involved with clubs where I’ve had results after [the break] and then three or four games later I don’t get a result.
“It’s just whatever happens on that day. If you’re superstitious and you listen to all that nonsense then you start to believe it. I’m not superstitious and I don’t listen to all that. I just get on with the game.”
Asked whether he has made any changes to the club's approach to games after international breaks to try to end the run, he says he has taken a multitude over the years.
“I’ve probably done every permutation under the sun,” he reflected. “I’ve won, I’ve lost, I’ve drawn, drawn again, I’ve won, I’ve lost.
“Every permutation, it doesn’t matter what way you want to think of it, I’ve done it. I’m never superstitious, I don’t look at all that nonsense, I just get on with it. If we lose, we lose, if we win, great.
“I’ve tried every permutation, whatever way you want to look at it. I’ve given them days off, no days off, brought them in, done anything they want.
“The result is going to happen on that given day. It’s not about anything else. It’s about that given day, if you can perform you’ll win a game.”
Town have gone two-and-a-half weeks without a League One game since winning 1-0 at Rochdale. Their last home league match was the 2-0 defeat by Rotherham on Wednesday 23rd October with their last Saturday league game at Portman Road the 4-1 win against Tranmere way back on Saturday 28th September.
“It’s a game of football that we go and try and win,” Lambert said looking ahead to the match against the Tangerines, who are fifth in the table, five points behind the Blues having played two more games.
“We try and win a game of football whether it’s the league, whether it’s the cup, we go and try and win.
“We’re playing well, the lads are in a really good place, the club is in a really good place. The supporters, as I‘ve said before, it’s a phenomenal support we’ve got and everybody coming back to the club I think that’s the biggest achievement we’ve had so far, fans wanting to come back and watch it. I’m really happy with what’s going on.”
Blackpool have won their last four matches in all competitions, three in the league including last week’s 2-0 home victory over AFC Wimbledon, and are unbeaten in their last six. In the league they have lost just once in their last nine.
“Every game is hard and every game is really tough,” Lambert reflected. “What gives us the divine right to just turn up [and win]? You have to earn it and if we earn it then hopefully, we’ll go and win it. But it is going to be a hard game.
“My main concern is our team. Every team in the league is hard and if any thinks differently, then you’re naïve. Everyone is really tough and it’s a tough, tough division to get out of, but at the minute we’re in a not bad place.”
One of Town’s key tasks on Saturday will be keeping Tangerines 12-goal striker Armand Gnanduillet quiet.
“They’ll have to handle ours as well,” Lambert responded. “I know how we want to play and the lads will know. Again, it’s about us. I respect all the guys Blackpool have, but I’ve also got a really good team myself, so we’ll be ready for the game.”
Lambert, who is attending a season ticket holder event in the FanZone prior to the match along with general manager of football operations Lee O’Neill, U23s coaches Gerard Nash and Chris Hogg, Jason Curtis from the ITFC Community Trust and host Micky Stockwell, is a fan of his opposite number, Simon Grayson.
“He’s a good manager, he’s been around and been a good manager at some really good clubs, but let's see what happens,” he said.
The Blues boss says he’s not treating these two home games in four days - leaders Wycombe who currently ahead of the Blues by thre points but having played two games more visit on Tuesday - any differently than he would other fixtures.
“I guarantee you’ll be saying the exact same to me come May,” he said when asked if they are a big opportunity.
“Every game is hard, every game is tough, every week is tough. It doesn’t matter what way you want to view it.
“You can look at a block of four games or six games and say that’s going to be tough. Every time I look at my noticeboard and whoever we’ve got it's a tough game. Get that one chalked off and then go to the next one.”
He added: “It’s one game at a time and then we'll try and bounce on and try and win and then go into Wycombe.
“If we lost the first four or five games, which could have happened, then you'd say we have to win these two.
“The start we’ve made is really good, it’s one game at a time where we try and win the next game.
“I don’t look at the Wycombe game at the minute, the most important game is the Blackpool game.
“The start has been decent, we’re still developing, we’re miles from where I want to get to but we’re developing as a team and as a football club with the support.
“As I said before, you were reporting on an apathy here just over a year ago. The fans coming back to the football club, that’s the most important thing and we shouldn’t underestimate it, those fans coming back has been huge.
“What the lads have done is bounced off them and vice versa, and you can see everybody thriving on that pressure between each other which I think is great, the adulation between the two is the way it should be.”
He says he doesn’t think too far ahead and liaises with his staff regarding his rotation policy.
“No, it would be impossible for me to have a crystal ball and say how these two teams are going to play," he continued.
“I’ve got an idea of what systems I want to play against each team. I’ve got 20-odd games left, so you plan from now until the end of May what’s going on with the fitness guys and the medical guys, how many minutes guys need, who needs what, who needs to come in and who needs to come out - it’s important.
“I played Cole Skuse three games on the trot, and he picked up an injury, so things like that we have to look at and say why that is.
“The fitness guys are brilliant and tell me what they think and the big decision becomes mine, but we’ve got experts in the football club on medical and on fitness who I listen to really strongly and then I pick a team that I think is going to go and win.”
Lambert is pleased that young players liken't Brett McGavin have shown their capabilities in the recent cup games.
“I can trust them because there are good lads around about them as well,” he said. “They need the help the other guys and the young guys who I do throw in can handle the ball, they have a good understanding of the game and the coaches at the academy deserve a lot of credit for developing the kids.
“We try and give them the finishing touch and learn what it’s like to be a footballer or have the mental strength to be a footballer because you’re going to get ups and downs.
“So we try and develop that side of the game plus the most important thing is to try and give them a winning habit because the game is about winning.
“It doesn't matter how you want to view it. The game is about winning, and if you can win things, it will be brilliant for them in the long-run.”
Lambert recalled Tomas Holy at Lincoln with the Czech making a number of saves, most notably an injury-time stop just prior to Alan Judge’s winning goal. “That’s his job, his job is to keep it out of the net,” the Blues boss said. “He’s not paid to let it in the net. His job is to keep it out of the net, he’s done great.
“I took him out of the team because I wanted to see Will [Norris] playing in front of our own crowd and in our own environment and at our own stadium. I wanted to see Will there.
“I’ve got two brilliant goalkeepers, top guys, top pros. I’d rather have that than not have that. The two of them are bang on the situation where I want them to be and I’ll pick one of them and that’s the way we’ll go.”
Lambert seems likely to return to Norris against Blackpool with Luke Garbutt at left-back. If Kane Vincent-Young is considered ready to return after his minor groin surgery then the former Colchester man will be on the right. If not, then Gwion Edwards could continue in that role. Skipper Luke Chambers and Luke Woolfenden are likely to get the nod at centre-half.
In midfield, Cole Skuse and Flynn Downes are again set to be the central pairing with Danny Rowe probably on the left and Wednesday’s goalscorer Judge on the right. James Norwood and Kayden Jackson will be the front pairing.
Blackpool boss Grayson, who has a couple of unnamed players facing late fitness checks, is in no doubt that Town are among the teams to beat this season.
“Ipswich are one of the favourites,” he told the Blackpool Gazette. “They have a really strong squad and have the threats of Jackson and Norwood up front.
“We will go there in good spirits, make sure we’re hard to beat and be ruthless in both boxes, and there’s no reason why we can’t go there and get a good result.”
Reflecting on Town’s midweek FA Cup replay win at Lincoln, Grayson added: “When you see their team, I think there were only two or three who played the previous league game.
“I was pretty sure that’s what Paul would do – play his fringe players – and keep a different team up his sleeve for Saturday.
“We’ve had a good week on the training pitch, and though it’s a long trip we’ll go in a positive mindset and hopefully give our supporters something to shout about.”
Historically, Town have won 12 games between the sides (11 in the league), nine have been drawn (nine) and Blackpool have won five (four). The Tangerines have never won at Portman Road.
The teams last met at Portman Road in April 2014 when Freddie Sears scored twice and Christophe Berra once as Town beat already-relegated Blackpool 3-2.
The Blues fell behind to Andrea Orlandi’s fourth-minute goal, prior to Sears striking twice before the break, then Henry Cameron levelled for Blackpool, but Berra sealed a win which really should have been more routine in the 83rd minute.
In November 2014, Town celebrated Mick McCarthy’s second anniversary in charge with a comfortable 2-0 victory at Bloomfield Road.
David McGoldrick put the Blues in the lead in the 26th minute and Daryl Murphy sealed it just after the hour.
The Blackpool squad includes former Town loan winger Liam Feeney, who made seven starts and two sub appearances, scoring twice, in a spell at Portman Road in the second half of the 2015/16 season.
Also still at Bloomfield Road is centre-half Curtis Tilt, who came close to joining the Blues in the summer of 2018.
Saturday’s referee is Stephen Martin from Staffordshire, who has shown 26 yellow cards and no red in 13 games so far this season.
Martin’s most recent Town match was the 4-0 defeat at Preston in April in which he yellow-carded only Myles Kenlock.
He also refereed 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 Mustapha 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 Jonas 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: Norris, Holy, Vincent-Young, Edwards, Donacien, Garbutt, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Wilson, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Skuse, Dozzell, Downes, Huws, Nolan, Judge, Rowe, Georgiou, Jackson, Norwood, Keane.
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