Lambert: One of the Top Three Performances This Season
Saturday, 25th Jan 2020 18:38
Blues boss Paul Lambert felt his side’s display in their 1-0 home victory over Lincoln, which took them back to the top of League One, was among their top three performances this season. Lambert had praise for goalscorer Luke Woolfenden, who netted his first goal for the Blues, as well as Flynn Downes, Emyr Huws, Will Keane and Alan Judge.
“For me it’s in the top three performances this season,” Lambert said. “I thought we were great right from the off against a good side. I thought we were very, very good.
“They were pushed back, I don’t think they could really get at us. Michael Appleton’s got a good side. But I thought we were very, very good. Very good.”
Regarding Woolfenden’s goal, he said: “Luke Garbutt has got set plays in him that are incredible, he puts it in the right area and Woolfenden does well at the far post and heads it in. It was a good goal.”
He felt the goal came at a vital time, just before the break: “It did because I thought we dominated, we’d had a brilliant move, I think we kept the ball for about two minutes and Keane just put it by the post.
“We had some great moments, some great play, great combination play, playing in their half. It was relentless.”
Lambert has previously said that Woolfenden is so laid-back that he has to check his heart is beating. Did he show any signs of excitement having scored his first Town goal?
“Tell you what, I wouldn’t like to see Woolfy excited!” the Town manager laughed. “Listen, he’s 21, he was at Swindon last year and I saw him in pre-season and I thought, ‘Dear oh dear, we need to get a centre-half in’.
“He was a wee bit off it but I thought we’d go with the kid at Burton [on the opening day] and we put him in and he’s never looked back.
“I think the time going to Swindon’s done him the world of good and then coming back here, not just playing the way he is playing, his mannerisms about the place, he’s really level-headed, really humble, which I think is really important for him.
“If you ask me if I think he’ll be a top-class centre-half, I think he’s on the road to being one. I think he’s got a really good chance if he keeps being humble and he keeps his feet on the ground.
“He comes from a good family, I think. I’ve been talking to the lad and the laid-back attitude could be beneficial to him going forward.”
Regarding the overlapping centre-half role he is currently playing, Lambert added: “He’s very comfortable. You’ve got to remember he’s only 21, he’s got so much potential. He’s playing on potential now, you’ve not got the finished article by along stretch.
“It’s the same with Flynn Downes. He’s 21 and has been linked with whoever. Flynn Downes could be another one that could be an incredible footballer. The two of them could be excellent, and not just those two, there are other kids and they need time to develop.
“These two are 21 years old but how they’re playing at this moment, these two, the young guys in the team has been incredibly high. But the two of them are humble.
“[If they get] big time you’d have to knock it out of them but they’re not [big-time Charlies] and if they keep that attitude through their football career and life, they won’t go far wrong.”
He added: “I’m happy we won the game. I think winning the game is so important. I thought we played really well, I’m really pleased with how we played overall.”
Town appear to be coming into form just at the right time following their downturn during November and December.
“I can only concentrate on what’s in our team, in our dressing room we go from one game to the next,” Lambert reflected.
“And it’s the same, we go for one game to the next, we’ve got Rotherham on Tuesday, that will be a different type of game.
“We’ll go there and try and play like we’ve been doing. The form we’re in at the minute’s really, really good.”
Among the standout performers in the form since the turn of the year which has seen the Blues return to the top of the table for the first time since mid-November have been Huws and Keane, who have established themselves in the XI.
“I think the way it is that you either play yourself out of the team or you play your way into it. It’s up to you,” Lambert continued.
“It’s up to the guys and at this moment the guys are playing really well. I think Keane’s playing like he did a few years ago.
“Emyr Huws has done great, playing back-to-back games which I think is brilliant for him. His left foot’s great, great habit of never giving the ball away, Emyr.
“He does the simple things well. The hardest ball in the game is the simple one and he does it brilliantly, and that’s the biggest compliment I can give him because nobody wants to play the simple pass.”
Huws came into the season after nearly two years on the sidelines with a knee problem while Keane underwent hamstring surgery at the start of last summer. The pair were in and out of the team in the first half of the campaign as they weren’t up to being regulars at that stage.
“Emyr wasn’t ready to play games [week in, week out], and that was his own admission,” he said.
“I speak to him every day and ask him how he feels and there were times where he said he wasn’t ready to dislodge Cole [Skuse] and Flynn at that time, he didn’t feel quite ready.
“Now I think if you ask him I think it’s a different ball game with him because I think he feels in a really good place and I’m really happy with how he and Downes have struck up a really good partnership together. And Judgey, I think’s playing the best of his time here.”
Was Lambert concerned at the lack of a second goal? “It’s always on edge at 1-0, everybody knows that. Ideally we would like a second goal. We tried, the goalkeeper made a great save from Garbutt and we had so many good moments. Willo [James Wilson] had a chance at the back post with his head.
“But 1-0’s a great score, any manager would tell you the same and the great thing is we’ve won the game against a good side.”
Supporters left the ground chanting that Town are top of the league, but Lambert himself insists he takes no notice of tables at this point in a campaign.
“The fans can sing what they want,” he said. “They pay unbelievable money to come. As I’ve said before, this stadium’s not been rocking like that for a right few years. Eighteen thousand or whatever it was in here.
“Brilliant, the atmosphere’s brilliant. As I’ve said before, the biggest thing was to get people back in to watch the game.
“The fans might not realise it but they’ve got a job to do when they come, they’ve got to support us and sing whatever they want to sing, create the atmosphere that they create.
“That’s their job, they’re part of us, we need them, we need them to do their job and we try and do our job and hopefully collectively everybody right through from the top to the bottom has a bit of success somewhere, whether that’s this year, next year or whatever. The fans are vital to the football club.”
Regarding his attitude to the league table, he added: “I never bother with it, I don’t bother because it’s May time that’s the main thing.
“I see it if it’s on TV but I don’t pay attention to it. I’ve not picked up a paper, I focus on the game, focus on my team, the guys, my staff, the football club.
“I don’t do social media, I don’t do any of the nonsense the world produces at the minute, and I’m happy that way.
“I’m probably in my own bubble. I’m too long in the tooth anyway, even when I played I didn’t really worry about where we were until the prizes got handed out.”
But the mood around the camp must be enhanced when the team is at the top of the league? “Yes, but you can’t get them getting carried away, nobody can get carried away because it’s only January.
“As I said before, you don’t win anything in January, you don’t win anything in February, March, April, although it’ll give you a chance to try.
“The big thing for me is that with the relegation last year, I don’t think anybody expected us to be in the position we were in.
“People naively, without a doubt, would have expected us to be in the position because they don’t know what happens when you have a relegation and how downbeat it is.
“When you do what we did and to be in the position we’re it has been an extraordinary turnaround, extraordinary to be in the position we’re in.
“Everybody’s found it difficult, I was talking to Mr Coates at Stoke the other day, I was having a good chat with him, he’s a brilliant owner, and he said the same - it’s difficult, when you get relegated, it’s so tough. But the turnaround for us has been huge.”
Earlier in the season the Blues celebrated wins by running to their supporters holding hands, something which hasn’t happened for the last few victories.
Asked whether that was a conscious decision, Lambert said: “The guys, if you have ideas, the guys will take the idea on or not. It’s important that you acknowledge the support because that North Stand is brilliant. As I said before, you get more and more people in there, more aggression in there.
“I saw the guy who ran [on the pitch] last week at Tranmere, the guy did nothing really wrong for him to get a ban, although I don’t think he did. Nobody wants to see it, but people want to come and enjoy themselves.
“The guys can do what they want, they can go up there and clap the fans and say thanks for the support because the support is huge for this club.
“As I said before, this club, the way it is at the minute with the fanbase behind it, it’s not been like that for a few years, that’s for sure.”
Lambert said there is nothing happening regarding transfers at present with the deadline Friday evening: “We can’t, we don’t have [the money]. Nothing at the moment. We’ve tried to bring one or two in but the money’s incredible.”
Lincoln boss Michael Appleton conceded that his side didn't deserve to win the match.
“We didn’t do enough to win the game,” he admitted. “I’m just frustrated. I’d expect us to be better in that final third with the opportunities that came about in the first half - two versus two, three versus three situations - where we had a real opportunity to hurt them. But it petered out because of poor decision-making and poor play.
“When you’re at it and you’re sharp, you turn that into two or three goals. We didn’t do that and that’s the reason we lost.
“For three games we’ve been outstanding. We’ve worked harder than the opposition, we’ve dropped onto second balls, we’ve been really physical with the opposition without having the natural height and strength other teams have.
“I just thought we were a little bit second best at times today. They only made Josh [Vickers] work once in the second half.
“Apart from that, it was crosses into the box and defending a few corners and freekicks. It was a lot of huffing and puffing from them without great quality.
“But when we did turn the ball over, we’ve got to be better and make better decisions on the ball.
“We’re not a millions miles away but I know there is so much more from us to come. That’s the frustrating thing.”
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