|Portsmouth 1 v 0 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 21st December 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Lambert: First Challenge Set Tone of the Game
Saturday, 21st Dec 2019 18:48
Manager Paul Lambert felt one goal was always going to be decisive in the Blues’ 1-0 defeat at Portsmouth and felt former Town striker Ellis Harrison’s yellow card within 15 seconds of the start set the tone for the match.
Ronan Curtis hit the game’s only goal for Pompey in the 50th minute with the Blues, who were later reduced to 10 men after skipper Luke Chambers saw a second yellow card, unable to find an equaliser.
The Blues also face an FA fine after having six players - including Chambers - booked plus assistant manager Stuart Taylor in a game in which referee Brett Huxtable showed 12 yellow cards overall.
“Looking at the game, the way it was going, I always thought one goal was going to be decisive,” Lambert said before moving on to his 38th minute substitution of Toto Nsiala, who had been booked and was in danger of picking up a second yellow card.
“Toto coming off disrupted us a little bit, I had to take him off for obvious reasons. I just think the way the referee was going about it, we didn’t know what way his cards were going to go. So to protect Toto and the team [I subbed him].
“I thought Toto had a good game the time he was on. I didn’t see any problem with his tackling. What set the tone of the game was the first challenge on Luke Chambers, which I thought was a bad one. I just thought some of the decisions were a bit strange.
“We had some good moments with balls coming across the face of the goal, some good play, but they got the decisive goal.”
Did he feel Harrison should have been shown a second yellow card for his challenge on Chambers just before half-time? Was that what he was discussing with referee Huxtable as he made his way off the field?
“It wasn’t that, I didn’t know that it was [Harrison] that made the challenge,” he said.
“What annoyed me was that Luke was between the ball and the player and anybody that knows football knows there’s no way the other player’s going to get that and he puts Luke down, and I think they actually got the throw, which was bizarre.
“And that’s why I thought the referee was uncertain the whole game, I didn’t know what he was going to do. And that’s why I took Toto off. The first challenge in the game certainly set the tone.”
Lambert spoke to Nsiala as he came off to explain the reasoning behind his withdrawal: “I said to him it’s the first time in my management career that I’ve taken someone off thinking, ‘What is the referee going to do here?’. Because the way the game was going, the way the referee was going about it, I wasn’t sure what they’d do with Toto.
“Toto made a really good tackle here on the Portsmouth guy and everybody was up in arms saying it was a freekick, and I think he actually gave it. Then I thought [I’d have to take him off] but his game was good.”
Lambert felt his team were more of a threat in the second half after he had changed the system from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2.
“We did, it’s just not falling for us at that moment but the effort was there, you can’t fault the lads’ effort,” he added. “We have to get back to what we were doing in the first 15 games or so. We’re still in that mix.”
What will get the Blues back to their previous level? “Hard work, sheer graft, that’s what gets you there. Without that, you can have all the ability in the world, it doesn’t matter, if you don’t have the hard work and the graft.
“But the guys, they’re going to have their moments where they come through it. And I said to them, every game you play is going to be a cup final because of the atmospheres in the stadium, everything that goes with it, the expectancy level, you have to rise above it. They know the issues.”
Lambert admits his side have shown less of a goal threat having not scored more than one goal in a match once in their last 13 games in all competitions but says that’s not just down to his strikers.
“It’s not, it’s collectively, the whole thing,” he said. “Everybody’s in it together, which is great, they’re a really good group, a really honest group. You can’t ask any more collectively as a group.
“If you keep the ball out of the net and are scoring, if you do that, then collectively you get the rewards.”
Town have now not won in the league for five matches - their last League One victory was at Rochdale on November 5th - and have lost two in a row in the league for the second time this season. In all competitions, they have failed to win over 90 minutes for eight matches and have lost their last three.
Asked whether he is worried about the current run, Lambert said: “We’ve lost two on the bounce on the league, one in the cup, it’s not something that you want to let prolong.
“We know we have to get back on the rails. We lost two in a row the last time and bounced back, we have to bounce back on Thursday and we have to be more back to what we were in the 15 games before.”
Regarding Chambers’s red card, he added: “I go back to what I said, the first challenge set the tone of the game, and I can’t even remember Luke’s first yellow card.
“The second one, I couldn’t really see with the rain and being that distance away. It’s a blow because we'll miss him for Thursday [when Gillingham visit].”
Town are out of the top two for the first time since August but Lambert isn’t unduly concerned about that at this stage of the season.
“There’s a whole half of the season [to go],” he said. “This time last year Portsmouth were sitting top and never got near it, and that can happen.
“Ipswich will be there or thereabouts, I’ve got no doubt about that. Hopefully we can do it automatically, hopefully we can win it. We’re still a really good side, but you don’t win anything in December.”
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett was pleased with his team's performance and they way they bounced back from last week's surprise 4-1 defeat at Accrington.
"We played very well, I thought it was an excellent game between two good teams," he told the Portsmouth News.
"Probably Ipswich’s strongest spell was after we scored, funnily enough, but it’s good to see us come through it, weather the storm and finish strongly.
"I did feel in terms of the display it was a good one, we brought our crowd into play and they had a sizeable contingent from Ipswich which we kept pretty quiet, which does show the level of performance.
"Ipswich changed it around a few times, which they do, but through the triangle of James Bolton, Ben Close and Andy Cannon it gave us a foothold and our defenders will gain confidence from a clean sheet, we haven’t had enough.
"Last week we were too open, we went up to Accrington and tried to play an open game and blow them away, yet didn't work that way. It was 1-1 at half-time and we went for it second half and they capitalised.
"We needed to adjust today because otherwise you can lose confidence pretty quickly in terms of a run if you cannot get solid and compact. We did that – and it produced a match-winning performance."
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