Lambert: If We Could Get a Cup Run It Would Be Great
Friday, 6th Nov 2020 15:53
Boss Paul Lambert says it would be great to have an FA Cup run with the Blues facing Portsmouth in an all League One first-round tie at Portman Road on Saturday afternoon.
Last season Town ended their 15-match winless run in the competition stretching back to January 2010 by defeating Lincoln City 1-0 in a first round replay at Sincil Bank following a 1-1 draw at Portman Road. They subsequently lost 2-1 to Coventry in a second round replay at home having drawn 1-1 at St Andrew’s.
That 15-game streak which stretched from Roy Keane’s management through the Paul Jewell and Mick McCarthy eras on into Lambert’s time as boss - Paul Hurst wasn’t at the club long enough to take charge of an FA Cup tie - was a significant annoyance to fans brought up on the club’s famous May 1978 Wembley triumph over Arsenal.
Asked about those frustrations, Lambert said: “1978 is a long time ago, I think there’s great history attached to the club with it and you can never take the history away, and if we could get a cup run it would be great. We’ll try everything we can to get through.”
Lambert previously said it was a "ludicrous" decision to stage the Papa John’s Trophy this season with the campaign squeezed into a shorter period, but he has no problem with the FA Cup taking place.
“I said if you’re going to lose a tournament, you’d have lost the [Papa John’s] Trophy because, one, the final from last year still hasn’t been played and, two, you cut down the games,” he said.
“The FA Cup is a prestigious competition that we’ll try and do well in, and we’ll try and get through. We’re certainly playing well, that’s for sure, we’re playing really well at this moment.”
Due to the potential for further fixture congestion, there are no replays this season with drawn games going straight to extra-time and then if still not settled penalties. Teams can use a fourth sub in extra-time.
Reflecting on facing a side from the same division, he added: “I think any team you play in the cup is tough. It's a tough competition whether you're playing our level, a Premier League team or a non-league team it's tough, it's really tough.
“What I've got to do is look at our team and what we've done in the last few weeks, where guys are injury-wise as we have to look after them.
“It’s important that their welfare is good for the Shrewsbury game because we've got Shrewsbury and Hull coming up really quickly as well, but I'll decide [on the team] today.”
With fans not present at games this season, the lure of a big FA Cup day out for supporters at a Premier League ground isn’t there. However, Lambert says that doesn’t wholly detract from the significance of the competition or the potential of a big draw.
“It doesn't change the importance of it because there's still a prestige there,” he said.
“Obviously, you're right in what you're saying that if you get through and get a Premier League team, the fans and the big party day out, all the usual things, they aren't there this year.
“And the way things are going I don't know when fans will come back, I really don't with the way things are going.
“I think we're in uncharted waters here with what's happening. As I said before, this isn't normal football but all credit to the guys they've done great with their football and the way they are playing and the results they've picked up. But it's tough without supporters, without a doubt it's hard.”
Lambert has said he’ll make changes with one or two players suffering with knocks and also due to the very busy period of fixtures over the last couple of months. In addition to that, the Blues squad arrived back at 4am on Wednesday morning following the trip to Sunderland.
“It's hard, Saturday-Tuesday is hard,” he reflected. “I don't know what time you all [the media] got home from Sunderland, but it's a long slap that.
“I know on the Wednesday night I was tired. It was hard to keep my eyes open on Wednesday night so the guys will be a lot worse than I was.
“We will try and get through because that's your job to try and get through, but the number of games is incredible.”
Portsmouth are also likely to make changes having had a similarly packed fixture list in the opening couple of months. Despite not knowing what sort of team his players might be lining up against on Saturday, Lambert says they are preparing for the match just as they do every fixture.
“The same as we do any other game,” he said. “We try our best to go through, regardless of what team Portsmouth have got out. They’re probably thinking the same, ‘Do we make changes?’.
“The number of games we’ve played, the two teams have played, has been massive, Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday, it’s been really tough. We have to wait and prepare the best we can.”
The teams meet at Portman Road in League One on Saturday 12th December but Lambert dismissed the suggestion that the Blues could put a marker down on Saturday ahead of that fixture.
“I don’t think that will have any significance,” he insisted. “Whatever happens will have no significance on what’s going to happen in five weeks’ time. You never get two games the same. You treat each game as an individual game. We’ll try our best to go through.”
Second-guessing Lambert’s team for Saturday’s game is far from an easy task, however, David Cornell seems set to start in goal having yet to feature in League One but having been between the sticks in the Papa John's Trophy and the Carabao Cup defeat to Fulham.
Janoi Donacien could start at right-back with Myles Kenlock returning on the left. At the centre of the defence, James Wilson will probably return alongside Toto Nsiala with Corrie Ndaba another potential candidate but presumably in the Papa John's Trophy team at Crawley on Tuesday.
In midfield, Jon Nolan is likely to start after his suspension, probably along with Emyr Huws. With Andre Dozzell suspended and Lambert probably looking at resting Teddy Bishop and Jack Lankester, Brett McGavin could be in with a shout of a start. Alan Judge is another option.
Up front, Lambert will choose between Kayden Jackson and ex-Pompey striker Oli Hawkins for the central role, while loanee Keanan Bennetts could make his full debut in one of the wide roles and Armando Dobra will hope to get the nod on the other flank with the Blues boss probably also keen to rest Gwion Edwards and Freddie Sears.
Portsmouth have no new injuries but with winger Michael Jacobs (knee) and defenders Jack Whatmough and Lee Brown (both hamstring) are all sidelined.
Manager Kenny Jackett says he is looking to progress in the competition but hinted that he will make changes to his team.
“We want to try and do well in the cup,” he told Hampshire Live. “That is where it is. I won’t risk any players in terms of injuries or fatigue. I watched them carefully this morning and I will tomorrow morning as well.
“It is a game we will want to try and do well in if we can, so I’ll go as strong as we think is needed to try to win the game, that is what we want to do.
“It is a hard tie for us, we know that. It is probably the biggest game in this round of the cup with the league position and the size of the clubs with Ipswich and Portsmouth.
“If you do want a cup run and to try to get through to play the Premier League boys, which we have done before, you have to come through all types of cup games.”
Reflecting on Town, he added: “It’s possibly the biggest tie of the round with two big clubs in Ipswich and Portsmouth.
“Hard one for us being away there but for us, we know that we are going to have to be at our very best to try to get through.
“They have had an excellent start, they are second in the league and they are the third-top scorers as well. They have some goals in them and we know it is going to be a difficult game. They have obviously good players running right through their team.”
Historically, the Blues have won 19 games between the two clubs (18 in the league, one in the League Cup), 12 have been draws (11 in the league) and Pompey have won 13 (10 in the league).
Pompey are currently seventh in the League One table, five places and two points behind the Blues.
The teams are yet to meet in League One this season but last term Portsmouth beat the Blues 1-0 at Fratton Park with the Portman Road fixture not taking place due to the campaign being curtailed.
Ronan Curtis’s second-half goal was enough to see Pompey to their victory over 10-man Town.
The Irish international found the net from 20 yards five minutes after the break and the Blues were unable to find an equaliser before skipper Luke Chambers was red-carded for a second bookable offence with two minutes remaining.
The teams have previously drawn one another three times in the FA Cup, all in the last 15 seasons.
In both 2006 and 2008 then-Premier League Portsmouth beat the Blues 1-0 at Portman Road in third-round ties, while in 2016 Pompey - by that point in League Two - beat Town 2-1 in a third-round replay at Fratton Park after a 2-2 draw in Suffolk.
In the replay at Fratton Park, former Blue Gary Roberts netted a penalty in the 32nd minute, then Marc McNulty added a second five minutes later to give Pompey - whose side included future Blues defender Adam Webster - a comfortable 2-0 half-time lead.
After the break, Ainsley Maitland-Niles pulled one back for Town before Piotr Malarczyk was sent off for two bookable offences.
At Portman Road 10 days previously, sub Ryan Fraser had netted a late equaliser for the Blues when his free-kick somewhat fortunately beat everyone to find the net in the 88th minute.
Tommy Oar had put the Blues in front in the 53rd minute prior to Kyle Bennett and Conor Chaplin hitting back on 55 and 86 to briefly give Pompey the lead.
The Hampshire club went on to win the trophy for a second time after knocking out the Blues in 2008, having previously carried it off in 1939.
Town striker Hawkins was with Pompey three years until being released in the summer and scored 18 goals in 71 starts and 25 sub appearances.
Portsmouth striker Ellis Harrison left the Blues for Fratton Park in June 2019 after a year at Town, in which the former Bristol Rovers man scored once in nine starts and seven sub appearances, for a fee of £450,000.
Saturday’s referee is Andy Haines from from Tyne and Wear, who has shown 24 yellow cards and one red in nine games so far this season.
Coincidentally, Haines’s last Town match was another FA Cup tie, last season’s 1-0 replay victory over Lincoln at Sincil Bank in which Donacien was the only player booked.
Prior to that he was in charge of the Blues’ 2-0 Carabao Cup win at Luton in August 2017 in which he yellow-carded Chambers, McGoldrick, Flynn Downes, Martyn Waghorn and no Hatters.
His also refereed the 2-0 win at Blackpool in October 2014 in which he cautioned only Luke Hyam.
Haines also reffed the after-extra-time 1-0 Capital One Cup defeat at Crawley Town two months previously in which he yellow-carded three home players as well as Elliott Hewitt, Matt Clarke, Kevin Bru and Alex Henshall.
Before that he was in charge of the 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday in October 2013 when he booked Tommy Smith and one Owl.
Squad from: Cornell, Holy, Chambers, Donacien, Ward, Kenlock, McGuinness, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Wilson, Ndaba, Nolan, Bishop, Huws, McGavin, Judge, Lankester, Dobra, Edwards, Bennetts, Sears, Hawkins, Jackson, Simpson.
Photo: Matchday Images
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