|Ipswich Town 0 v 0 Gillingham|
SkyBet League One
Thursday, 26th December 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Lambert: We Bounced Back Before and We Have to Bounce Back Again
Thursday, 26th Dec 2019 06:00
Town boss Paul Lambert is looking for his team to bounce back from falling to two successive League One defeats for the second time this season when Gillingham visit Portman Road the traditional Boxing Day fixture.
The Blues lost 1-0 at Portsmouth on Saturday having been defeated 2-1 by Bristol Rovers the previous weekend. In all competitions Town have lost their last three having been beaten 2-1 by Coventry City in a second-round FA Cup replay a few days prior to the Pirates reverse.
Town, who dropped to third on goal difference following Saturday’s loss at Fratton Park, have failed to win any of their last five league games. Overall, they are without a win in 90 minutes in their last eight matches in all competitions.
In addition, they will be aiming to improve a home record which has seen them win only three of their League One games at Portman Road, with four ending in draws and two in defeat.
“A massive game, with a massive crowd,” Lambert said when looking forward to today’s match following Saturday’s defeat.
“Considering what day it is, fans will come out in their numbers again and we’ll have to make the running, we’ll be the team that has to be on the front foot. And if we do that, then let’s see what happens.”
Does he believe there is extra pressure on Town against the Gills, who are 12th in League One, eight points behind the Blues, given the recent run of results?
“This football club generates pressure without saying what game you have to win, what game you can afford to draw or whatever because of the size of the name,” he said.
“And that’s what it should be, that’s big club syndrome, so that’s not a problem. If you play for this club or you manage the club you have to be able to handle that expectancy level.
“That should never come into the equation, you should actually thrive on it, just with the level that’s there, thrive in front of the support, go and express yourself, go and do the things that got you here in the first place. That for me is an easy answer, you thrive on that, you don’t look at the pressure of it.”
Asked whether it’s up to the players to lift the crowd this afternoon, he added: “It goes two ways, it’s a hand in a glove. You need that, you need the two of them to work together, you need that bouncing off each other and that’s the only way it works.
“Again, the support was absolutely brilliant [at Fratton Park] and we’ll have to handle when teams play against us, the expectancy level and that teams will raise their game and the atmospheres will be different to what they normally are.
“That’s what you call big club syndrome and that’s what this club is. It’s a big club in this division and you’re going to have to handle that.”
In October Town suffered their first back-to-back league defeats of the season - 2-0 losses at Accrington and at home to Rotherham - and bounced back with a comfortable 3-1 win at Southend. Lambert is looking for a similar response this afternoon.
“A million per cent, we have to bounce back quickly and as strongly as we possibly can,” he said.
“Traditionally, Boxing Day fixtures generate a massive crowd which there will be at the stadium. We have that intensity and that pressure of it and I’m pretty sure the guys will come out flying.”
Quizzed on whether he feels there might be some element of a hangover from last season’s struggles during what's been the Blues’ first prolonged poor run of form this term, he said: “I just think that’s what happens, you’re always going to have a blip somewhere, it’s how you come through it.
“It’s always how you come through it. We bounced back after the two games we lost before and we have to bounce back again.
“That’s what makes a good team, you have to really bounce back and you have to handle the expectancy level at the club.
“It’s very rare a team goes right through it [without a blip], you get the odd team that will go right through it but it’s very, very rare.”
Looking back to the 1-0 win at the Priestfield Stadium in September, Lambert says it’s displays like that one that Town need to repeat.
“We’ve got to get back to the first 15 or 16 games, we were relentless and we have to get back to that,” he added.
In addition to the win at the Priestfield Stadium, the Blues beat the Gills 4-0 at Portman Road in the Leasing.com Trophy in October, although both teams made plenty of changes for that match. Does he feel those wins will give Town a psychological edge?
“Do you know what, I think however we play, home and away, it generates an atmosphere, it generates teams going above their level at certain times,” Lambert said. “We have to go above that to win. That’s what you call big club syndrome, you have to rise above it.”
Lambert says there has been no contact between him and Steve Evans since the Gillingham boss made claims about his conduct on the touchline at the Priestfield Stadium.
The Town manager, furious at Evans's accusations, refused to shake his fellow Scot’s hand during the Leasing.com Trophy tie and says the situation will be the same again today and that he’ll just get on with his job in the technical area: “Yes, that’s it.”
Lambert is forced into one change of personnel with skipper Luke Chambers banned for one match following his red card at Pompey but the Blues boss is almost certain to make more with today’s match the second of a very busy Christmas schedule and given his much-discussed rotation policy.
“I’ll see how the guys are tomorrow [Sunday] but I think we’ve got five games in two weeks, which is a lot,” he said. “The guys will be ready to go, I’ll see how everybody is.”
Lambert may stick with Will Norris in goal and could continue with a back three. That may see Cole Skuse join James Wilson and Luke Woolfenden at the heart of the defence with Luke Garbutt the left wing-back and Janoi Donacien or Gwion Edwards on the right.
In midfield, Flynn Downes appears a certain starter with Andre Dozzell seeming likely to return to the XI having been impressive in his recent games. Alan Judge may come into the more attacking central role, while Emyr Huws is likely to play some part over the Christmas period.
Up front, Kayden Jackson, rested at Fratton Park, looks set to start, probably alongside James Norwood with Will Keane playing a part from the bench. Freddie Sears could make his return to the 18 for the first time since February following his ACL injury.
Despite the spat with Lambert, Gills boss Evans, whose team are unbeaten in four in all competitions, winning three, having beaten the MK Dons 3-1 at home on Saturday, says he’s a big fan of Town having spent time at Portman Road when Sir Bobby Robson was boss and during George Burley’s years in charge.
“They will have their biggest attendance of the season and I have enormous respect for them as a club,” he told the Kent Messenger.
“I was very fortunate to go there when Sir Bobby was around and the same with George Burley, people who had Ipswich through the middle of them.
“I got to know Sir Bobby when he was there, just briefly, not that well, but his little mate Charlie [Woods] said ‘Let me see if I can get you in to watch training’.
“I can remember I used to take those little jelly gums with me and Sir Bobby loved them. He said ‘You can come back every week’. I think eventually he said 'You can’t keep coming in here son!’
“I have been to some wonderful games there and it is just a wonderful place to play and watch football.
“It’s a club steeped in history and they have a wonderful Championship squad. I have been in League One with good Championship players when I was at Rotherham and it proved to be the case because most of them played the following season [after promotion] and that is what they will be believing at Ipswich.”
Evans expects a tough afternoon despite Town’s current lack of form: “If you look at the resources available to the management team it is incredible.
“They have a brilliant owner and it will be extremely tough because for me they have a Championship squad. We will go there and try and win a game.”
Blues keeper Holy joined the Blues from Gillingham in the summer after the Czech had spent two years with the Kent club, for whom he made 107 appearances.
While Holy is the only man in the Town squad to have played for the Kent club, Gills midfielder Stuart O’Keefe, who joined them from Cardiff in the summer, was an academy schoolboy with Town.
Their squad also includes former loanee Ben Pringle, who made nine starts and one sub appearance, scoring twice, for the Blues in a loan spell from Fulham between February and April 2016.
Historically, Town have the upper hand on the Gills, winning 10 games between the sides (seven in the league), drawing 10 (10) and losing just two (two).
The teams last met in the Leasing.com Trophy at Portman Road in October when the Blues comfortably defeated the Gills 4-0.
Emyr Huws and Jordan Roberts gave Town a 2-0 half-time lead and the Blues completed the scoring via an own goal and Will Keane in the second period.
Just over a fortnight prior to that, the Blues won 1-0 at the Priestfield Stadium in League One via Kane Vincent-Young’s header.
The sides last played one another at Portman Road in the league on the opening day of the 2004/05 Championship campaign when Town got off to a victorious start, coming from behind to win 2-1.
The visitors went in front through Paul Smith but the Blues struck back via Richard Naylor and Dean Bowditch.
Today’s referee is Craig Hicks from Surrey, who has shown 51 yellow cards and four red in 18 games so far this season.
Hicks’s only previous competitive Town match was the Leasing.com Trophy tie with Tottenham’s U21s in September in which he showed just the one yellow card to one of the visitors.
Coincidentally, Hicks also took charge of Town’s July 2017 pre-season friendly against the Gills at the Priestfield Stadium, which the home side won 2-1.
The Kent side, who had Holy in goal, went in front via a soft penalty awarded by Hicks, who kept his cards in his pocket throughout, won by ex-Town midfielder Lee Martin following a challenge by Blues skipper Chambers and converted by Tom Eaves.
Squad from: Norris, Holy, Donacien, Garbutt, Kenlock, Wilson, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Skuse (c), Dozzell, Downes, Huws, Nolan, Judge, Edwards, Georgiou, Jackson, Keane, Norwood, Sears.
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