|Ipswich Town 3 v 0 Bristol Rovers|
Saturday, 5th September 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Lambert: The Way We Played Was Incredible
Saturday, 5th Sep 2020 18:38
Delighted Town boss Paul Lambert hailed the Blues’ football as “incredible” as they opened their season with a 3-0 behind-closed-doors victory over Bristol Rovers in the Carabao Cup at Portman Road. Freddie Sears scored twice and skipper Luke Chambers once as Town cruised to victory and the second round of the competition.
“I thought the way we played was incredible, the football was incredible,” he said. “We had incredible movement off the ball, the goals were excellent, I thought.
“Aaron Drinan did an incredible job to judge his cross [for the first goal]. It could have been a bit more, but the football we played was excellent I thought, against a good side. They’re a good side, they’ve good movement, but I’m delighted with how we played.”
Drinan, 22, was making his competitive debut for the Blues having joined the club from Waterford in his native Ireland back in January 2018.
“Excellent, really, really good, but he’s deserved the chance,” the Town manager continued. “As I said before, show me what you’ve got in pre-season and if you show me that and I like it, you’ve got a chance.
“I thought the lad was great but there were so many good things today, so many guys came to the fore. It was an all-round team performance which I thought was very, very good.”
What does he like about Irish U21 international Drinan, who has spent time on loan back at Waterford, in non-league with Sutton United, in Sweden with GAIS and in Scotland with Ayr over the last couple of years?
“The sheer enthusiasm, the hunger, desire, workrate, that’s everything for me,” he said. “Whether you’ve got the ability, that remains to be seen, but the workrate and the desire, I’ll have that any day of the week. If you do that, then you’ve got half a chance.
“His performance was excellent, his link-up play was great. Even big Oli [Hawkins] when he came on was a handful. Really happy how Aaron played.”
Lambert was pleased with skipper Chambers’s display at right-back, the first time the 34-year-old has played that role for a few seasons.
“I knew the situation with Janoi [Donacien] and Kane [Vincent-Young, who both have minor knocks], so Luke I knew would give us composure in the right-back area there.
“I thought he and Stephen Ward were excellent. The whole back four were, Toto and Woolfy, and Tomas behind them, I thought that was a solid base.
“The midfield three [Andre Dozzell, Jon Nolan and Teddy Bishop], I thought their movement was excellent, going beyond, going short, their link-up play, one-touch, two-touch football was excellent, and I thought Freddie and Judgey [Alan Judge] caused no end of problems. And Aaron Drinan, as I said before, his workrate and his rawness will be a big asset.”
Chambers came off late on and Lambert says he’s not sure how significant his injury might be at this stage.
“I’m not sure how bad it is, whether it’s a cramp in the hamstring,” he said. “But Luke’s not played that position for a long time, so it’s different from playing centre-back. We’ll see how he is, but his performance was very good.”
Would he be able to play there for a run of games in League One? “The team’s winning, as I said yesterday, it’s their shirt to lose. It doesn’t matter who is sitting on the sidelines, get in the side.”
Regarding Sears’s goals, he said: “Two great goals, back post. We’ve worked a lot on that type of movement. The football I thought was brilliant, the movement with the guys, the midfield three were excellent, their movement was excellent.
“I thought Judgey was really, really good, Freddie with his goals, there’s not one failure there. Every one of them was excellent.”
One of the highlights for fans forced to watch at home was the display of Teddy Bishop, who has had such a frustrating time with injury since his breakthrough 2014/15 season.
“My opinion is that Bish has to play games here, he can’t stop-start all the time the way it’s been for the last few years,” Lambert said.
“The lad’s got to play, but when he plays like that and he stays injury free, he’s one helluva player. But he’s got to play all the time.
“There’s no point in saying you’re a really good player if you’re not playing. Everybody’s a good player if they don’t play. He’s got to play and he’s got to do that every single week and turn it out and turn it out and have consistency in the game where he plays game after game after game.
“I thought Jon Nolan was brilliant, his one-touch passing was excellent, the three of them complemented each another really well.”
Asked whether the win was particularly pleasing after last week’s disappointing 1-0 friendly defeat at Cambridge, Lambert said: “Do you know what, I never made anything of it. It was a nothing game. Guys were coming back from injury. You get nothing from a friendly. I didn’t really faze me at all, it was today that really counted.”
Has the display helped him to select his side for next Sunday’s League One opener against Wigan at Portman Road? “I said before, it’s your jersey to lose. We’ve got a game on Tuesday [in the EFL Trophy against Arsenal's U21s] and we’ll go and try and get through that as well. We’ll see how one or two are with little niggles, but it will be a strong team on Tuesday again, we’ll go and try and win.”
Lambert says starting the season with a cup match isn’t ideal but he gets why it was played given the wider circumstances.
“I understand why the cup game has to get played to try and fit the competition in,” he said. “Is it ideal before a league game? Probably not, but that’s the way it is at the minute due to this virus.”
He says his players coped with the behind-closed-doors aspect of the match well but isn’t happy with the situation: “It’s not good, it’s not great without the supporters and hopefully we can get them back as quick as we can and safe as we can, but this isn’t real football, that’s for sure.”
A lot has been made of the work on the training field on patterns of play and Lambert says it was getting back to the way the team approached the game when he first came in in October 2018.
“Yes, we did that when we first came in,” he said. “We played some really good football when we first came in and if we’d had the goalscorer that we tried to get then maybe we wouldn’t have got relegated, I don’t know. We played some good football in the Championship.
“All it was was just tweaking one or two things here, but they know it. It’s repetition, repetition, the football they played was excellent, I’m really, really pleased.”
Looking ahead to Tuesday’s game against the Gunners' youngsters, Lambert was asked if the subs from today would start that match.
“No, I know the team that will play. I said before, win games, then you’ve got a better chance of staying in the team,” he said.
Quizzed on whether it would it be possible to keep the same team for all three games in the season's first nine days, Lambert laughed: “All you guys made an issue of the rotation thing, so I’ll let you pick the team for Tuesday.”
He added: “As I say, I’ll judge Tuesday, [today was] the first competitive game and [I'll see] how guys are.
"If I think anybody’s got a slight strain then I’ll change it but if not, then we’ll go as strong as we possibly can. But it all depends on the little niggles.”
Bristol Rovers boss Ben Garner was disappointed with his team at both ends of the field.
“I think the big thing is they took their chances,” Garner said. “We made mistakes and got punished, and didn’t take ours. Through the first two-thirds of the pitch I don’t think there was too much in the game.
“The goals gave them confidence and they grew, and it knocked us a bit. We created four or five really good chances and didn’t take them. You can’t do that, we have to be better in both boxes.”
Regarding his side’s errors, he added: “I didn’t see that coming. In our last two friendlies we looked very solid and played really well, so that wasn’t at the level that we’ve been.”
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