Lambert: We Should Have Been a Couple Up After Excellent First Half
Saturday, 8th Feb 2020 18:08
Town boss Paul Lambert felt the Blues should have been “a couple” of goals up at the break after an “excellent” first-half display before ultimately falling to a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland.
Chris Maguire’s 81st-minute goal saw the Black Cats to victory over Town, who are down to seventh and out of the top six for the first time since the opening weekend of the season.
“I thought we were excellent in the first half, we should have been a couple up,” Lambert said. “That would have given us a foothold in the game.
“But I thought we played really, really well in the first half. Sunderland came back strongly, which you would expect, in the second half.
“We rode our luck [when Sunderland hit] the crossbar, we had one or two chances in the second half and I thought we should have had a penalty because Emyr Huws won that header. Anywhere on the pitch I think that’s a freekick, so that didn’t go our way.
“Sunderland had a good game in the second half but I thought in the first half we were very, very good.”
Lambert’s big frustration was not turning that first-half display into goals: “We should have, we had chances to do it. We had really great areas to really hurt them and [the goals] never materialised.
“Maybe we have to hunt other teams now rather than the other way around. We have to hunt teams, for the first time we’re out of the top six this season, sometimes that can help you, at certain times. You have to go on a run, we have to go on a run.
“As I said before, it’s not a league like the Premier League where Liverpool are so far ahead it looks like you’ll never catch them. There are still a lot of teams in this division who can catch up.”
Reflecting further on whether Town being out of the top six and now among the hunters rather than the hunted in the automatic promotion and play-off places, he added: “The pressure’s off to that extent. But if we play like that, we’re certainly going to win a lot more games than we lose.
“Football-wise, I was really happy with how we dominated the game. We had so much control of the game in the first half. But you’ve got to score when you have those chances and we never managed to score.”
Why, not for the first time this season, was there such a disparity between the performances in the first and second halves?
“You’ve got to give Sunderland credit,” Lambert continued. “What do want, Sunderland to let us play 90 minutes like that? No chance. There are two teams there. They’re a good side, they’ve got a great fanbase behind them, a big noise, you expect them to come and have a go at you.
“Football-wise, we rode our luck in the second half but we also had one or two chances in that second half when we should have pulled the trigger and not tried to walk it into the net.
“But the football we played in the first half, we should have been comfortable in the first half.”
Lambert felt the display was significantly better than the performances in the previous defeats at Rotherham and at home to Peterborough last weekend.
“That wouldn’t have been hard that,” he admitted. “The control we had today was really pleasing, that was good. But at the top end of the pitch is where you earn your corn and we just didn’t manage to score.”
Town have hardly been free-scoring this season but Lambert says the lack of goals hasn’t been an ongoing concern.
“No, we were winning games, it doesn’t matter whether you’re winning 1-0 or 2-0, we were winning games,” he added.
“As I said, now we become the hunter, now we have to hunt teams down and see if they can handle being in there. There’s a long, long way to go, 14 games to go. We have to start to win.”
Janoi Donacien was subbed in the second half but Lambert is hopeful the right-back hasn’t suffered an injury.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t know if it was cramp in his calf at the minute, so if that’s all it is then hopefully he’ll be OK for Tuesday.”
Regarding Emyr Huws, who started on the bench, he added: “Emyr had that ankle knock, he only started to train on Wednesday, I think.
“And Jon Nolan had recovered from his heel thing and I thought he did well for his first game in a number of weeks. As I said before, the first half, the control was really, really good.”
Lambert says he made his decision on which of his keepers to field close to the game: “I never decided right up until the last minute who I was going to go with.
“As I said before, Will Norris has done great and I was never going to chastise him for a mistake that everybody makes. He’s a top goalkeeper.
“Tomas Holy I felt had bided his time and I thought he did well today. He had nothing really to do, so Tomas is in there at the minute.”
Sunderland boss Phil Parkinson felt his team had to dig deep to win the match against a Town side which impressed him.
“A good team Ipswich, we knew they’d come with some response to the heavy defeat at home last week and they certainly did, they started quick,” he said.
“We were a bit slow to get into our stride. I think we were a bit slow with our build-up play in the first half.
“We grew into the first half, I felt. At half-time we spoke and said we needed to speed the game up and get Ipswich on the back foot, step onto them all over the pitch, play with a bit more forward momentum.
“And when we did that you felt there was only one winner. We’d hit the bar, we’d hit the post, we’d had other good chances, but eventually the goal came. I felt it was a deserved victory against a very good team.”
Regarding the winning goal, he added: “It was a tremendous finish from Chris, he has got that calmness and quality you need to separate tight games and I was pleased that the chance felled to him because he is clinical in those situations.”
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