Lambert to Assess Trio and Has No Plans For Wholesale Changes
Friday, 23rd Oct 2020 10:20
Town boss Paul Lambert will assess Stephen Ward, Oli Hawkins and Alan Judge ahead of Saturday’s trip to Lincoln and says he has no plans to make wholesale changes to his team despite the 4-1 loss at Doncaster on Tuesday.
Ward has missed the last three games with the achilles injury he suffered in the 1-1 draw away against the MK Dons earlier this month and Lambert says the veteran Irishman is closing in on a return, although he’s not yet sure whether that will be at Sincil Bank.
“We don’t know yet, we’ll have a look at him and see where he is,” he said. “He’s doing OK at the minute. He’s a big personality, which is great. He’ll know himself when he’s ready, but he’s doing OK at the minute.”
Lambert says Judge complained of a hamstring problem earlier in the week having impressed him in the opening weeks of the season.
“He finds really good space Judgey, really good,” he said. “We need to see how he is this morning, he was feeling his hamstring the other day, so we need to see how he is, we can’t take a risk with him if he feels anything.
“He’s a really clever footballer, he finds himself into spaces where he can hurt people. Maybe doesn’t have the blistering pace that Keanan [Bennetts] has got or anything like that, but he’s an intelligent footballer and I think he’s started the season really well for us.”
If Judge doesn’t make it then Bennetts, on loan from Borussia Mönchengladbach might be in line for his full debut having looked lively from the bench at Doncaster.
“He’s getting there,” Lambert said. “He’s really quick. I mean really, really quick and he’s dynamic, so hopefully he’s not too far away from forcing his way in. But he is dynamic, that’s for sure.”
Another contender might be Jack Lankester, who played his first 90 minutes since January 2019 in the EFL Trophy tie against Gillingham but hasn’t featured since.
“We’ve got to be really careful with Jack because two stress fractures in your back are two massive injuries for somebody so young,” Lambert said.
“He’s had a long time out not playing football, which is a dangerous thing for him. He does well in training, he did well against Gillingham in the cup.
“Football-wise, I think he’s a real, real talent, it’s just watching him and where he’s at. But he’s doing really well at the minute, I’m happy with him.”
Striker Oli Hawkins returned as a sub at Doncaster having missed the Accrington game due to a groin problem.
If considered fit enough, the former Portsmouth man seems certain to return to the central striking role and Lambert says he’ll look at him this morning.
“He’s different [to my other options up front], he’s totally different the big lad,” he said. “He’s really good with his feet, I don’t think anybody should go away from that, even though he’s a tall lad he is good with his feet, he can play with the ball no problem.
“We’ll see how he came through [the Doncaster match], he trained yesterday so we’ll have a look at him this morning.”
Asked whether it’s nice to have the option of going long to 6ft 5in tall Hawkins if needed, Lambert responded: “I don’t want to just go back to front, I don’t want to play that way. I’d rather do it my way.
“I don’t want to see long balls, and headed balls, that’s not the way the game goes forward.
“The way the lads are playing at the minute, I like the risk factor which sometimes has people’s hearts in their mouths, but I enjoy watching it and we’ve won more games than not, and we’re a good side.”
Reflecting on how he will approach selecting his XI for Saturday, he says there won’t be widespread changes following that first league defeat of the campaign, although there might be one or two switches of personnel.
“In November we play Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday and I’ve said to the guys, ‘You lose and then you think I can leave you out, but because you’ve played that well in the previous games, one game has been not so good, I might give you the benefit of the doubt. But if you mess up again you might be out’, and they know that.
“There won’t be a radical [approach]. The only changes I’ll make will be fatigue or because somebody’s off their form a little bit.
“But I won’t make massive changes because we lost a game of football because we’ve been great for the last six games or so.”
He says if players are on eggshells expecting to be dropped after one poor performance or one or two mistakes, they'll not be able to play as he wants them to.
“That’s exactly it," he said. "The guys know my thoughts on what we’ve done well and what we’ve done not so good, but I would be crazy after one crazy half of football to make wholesale changes.
“Everybody has an off-day, nobody wants to have an off-day but everybody has an off-day at certain times. It’s just you don’t want to do it again.”
Lambert says those currently out of the team realise the position but equally he says they'll be waiting for their chance if there isn't a return to form.
“Yes, they do, but they also know that you can’t perform like Tuesday night again," he said.
"Then the opportunity comes, so it’s entirely up to the individual to stay in the team and make sure what happens on Tuesday night doesn’t happen again, or else you’ll find yourself sitting alongside me.
“That’s the reality of it. I don’t want to hide anything from the guys, they know the situation, the guys are that are not playing know the situation and their chance comes then they have to be ready to perform.”
Among those waiting in the wings are centre-half Luke Woolfenden and keeper David Cornell.
“Yes, and Mark McGuinness as well," Lambert added. "Woolfenden, you’re right, Cornell. There are lots of them in there that you think they need a chance and once they’re in they have the pressure of sustaining it.
“The ones that are in at the minute can’t afford what happened on Tuesday night to happen again.”
Kane Vincent-Young is still to appear this season due to his achilles problem and Lambert says the right-back is still a little way off a return even to the U23s.
“He’s still a few weeks away Kane, he’s not trained with us at all,” he said. “He needs a bit of time on the grass, he’s started doing little things but he’s still a wee bit away from it.”
Striker Kayden Jackson tested positive for Covid-19 at the weekend and Lambert says the 26-year-old, who is required to isolate for at least 10 days but probably a fortnight, is making progress.
“He’s doing alright, he’s doing OK. Obviously he can’t come in but I think he’s feeling OK,” the Town manager continued.
“When you look at the Accrington situation at the moment, it’s a crazy time, a really crazy time.”
Aaron Drinan (thigh), James Norwood (hamstring), Cole Skuse (knee), Flynn Downes (knee), Tristan Nydam (ankle) and Ben Morris (knee) all remain unavailable.
Photo: Matchday Images
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