Lambert: We Went Toe-to-Toe With a Really Strong Team
Wednesday, 16th Sep 2020 22:39
Town boss Paul Lambert felt his players went toe-to-toe with a strong Fulham side in this evening’s Carabao Cup second-round tie and that it took a world class goal to see the Premier League side to their 1-0 victory. The Blues manager also commented on Crystal Palace target Flynn Downes's return to action and Birmingham's reported interest in Kayden Jackson.
“I couldn’t ask any more,” Lambert said of his players’ performance. “I thought we were really good. We saw Fulham’s teamsheet when we were coming in and saw they’d put a strong team out. They have so many great players there, they’re a really good team.
“They were a strong team but we went toe-to-toe with them and I thought we were excellent. We had some good play, some guys playing for the first time, which was really good and every one of them didn’t disgrace themselves, I thought there were some really good performances.”
He added: “I think you always want to test yourself against great players or great opposition, I think that’s important. I’m really proud of them, how we played, really, really proud.
“You look at the team Fulham had out, a load of stars there, but again we went toe-to-toe and there wasn’t too much in it.”
Reflecting on Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 38th-minute winner, he said: “The goal that they scored, that was world class, the switch from the lad [Maxi Le Marchand] from here was incredible and then the cross and then the goal.
“So it took a world-class goal to beat us because we were all locked in, we were all set up really good but sometimes you’ve got to hold your hand up and say the goal was top class.”
Lambert was pleased with the likes of Armando Dobra, Janoi Donacien and Oli Hawkins, who were all making their first appearance of the season.
“I just said to them that they’re playing with a lot of confidence, the guys, and we’ll try and keep that,” he said. “It’s really early doors, but the way we’ve started and the way we’re playing, I’m really pleased.”
The Blues boss was also delighted with centre-half pairing Toto Nsiala and James Wilson: “The two of them have been excellent, really good. Nsiala has been a different player this year, good on the ball, strong, not getting outmuscled. He was up against a really tough guy in Mitrovic.
“And Wilson I think got his chance with Luke Woolfenden being out and took it. I think that’s all you can ask. When you get your chance, take it. And the two of them as a partnership look really, really strong.”
The Scot says he gave Nsiala the captain’s armband as a reward for his excellent form in pre-season and in the campaign proper’s first few games.
“I just made the choice because the way he’s performed he deserves the recognition,” he said. “I think he’s played really, really well in the games since he’s come back. In training, that’s important as well, he’s trained really well, so I didn’t have a problem giving it to him.”
Regarding full debutant Hawkins, he added: “Excellent, really good, he’s an absolute handful, he is. He’s an absolute handful. He’s not fully fit yet, he’s behind but I’m absolutely over the moon with his performance because he gives you everything. He wins a lot of headers, a lot of flick-ons but he can also play with his feet. Really pleased with him.”
Asked whether it would have been good to have had a crowd behind his team in the closing minutes as they looked for an equaliser, Lambert said: “It would have been nice to have them full stop. Everybody needs fans because the game’s about supporters. We feed off it, for good and bad you feed off it and hopefully they’ll come back soon.”
Lambert admitted that Town rarely threatened to score, but he felt that was down to the quality of the opposition: “You’ve got to remember what you’re playing against. They’ve a striker [Mitrovic] worth more than this football club cost.
“They’ve got a goalkeeper from PSG. They’ve got a midfielder from Southampton [Mario Lemina]. It’s unbelievable, the PSG keeper who was [on loan at] at Real Madrid [last season]. You’ve got to put it into perspective what you’re up against. They’re a really, really good side.”
He says the game will have been a good experience for his players: “If you don’t learn from that you’ll never learn. It will be great for them.
“Emyr Huws got better as the game went on as well. Jon Nolan was excellent again, Andre Dozzell, the same. We have got a lot of guys with confidence who are playing really well. The experience will be really good for them.”
Lambert was also pleased to see Downes appear for the first time this season as a second-half sub: “We had a chat yesterday and, as I said before, just let the kid go and play and don’t mention anything else. Just let him go and play and hopefully he gives me a problem trying to get back in the team.
“He probably knows he’s got a fight on his hands with the guys in front but there are reasons for that. But just I think now’s the time just to put it to bed and let the kid go and play.”
Asked about reports that Birmingham had made a £2.5 million offer for Jackson, a £1 million target for AFC Bournemouth last week, Lambert said: “I don’t know, same scenario as what it was. Somebody has to want to buy him.
"It’s OK seeing speculation, somebody has to want to buy you and then we have to wait and see.”
Asked directly whether Birmingham have made a bid, whether there was firm interest from the Midlanders, he responded: “No, I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, Birmingham have signed another striker Scott Hogan from Aston Villa following a loan spell last season, which may indicate any interest in Jackson has cooled.
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