Lambert: Really Encouraging, We're Still in the Mix
Saturday, 20th Feb 2021 18:41
Blues boss Paul Lambert insisted Town are still “in the mix” after their 0-0 home draw with Oxford United, having been encouraged by the display.
Town are now 12th, six points off the play-offs and 14 behind Tuesday’s opponents Hull City in second.
Despite the game ending in the same result, the Blues were much better than they were against Northampton on Tuesday.
“I thought so, I thought it was really encouraging,” Lambert said. “The team fight, I said that yesterday, the team fight and still we’re in the mix if they keep that level, there are a lot of games to go. But a lot of encouragement in there and the fight was there for everybody to see.”
Lambert felt his side had chances to win it in both halves: “Even in the first half, Keanan [Bennetts] when he cuts in I think it’s a really good chance and Troy [Parrott]’s one I think he’s just dragged it. His touch was really good in the box and he’s just dragged his shot.
“In the second half we started really well, there was Keanan’s shot and then we had Nors [James Norwood] and Troy. A lot of good moments, but we’ve just got to try and finish that good work.”
Asked whether there was a conscious attempt to hit Norwood with early balls, Lambert joked: “You guys are wanting the long ball back! Just hoof it and boot it, that’s what you call it, may as well use your analogy for it.
“No, listen, we played good, I’m really happy, really encouraged how they performed.”
Lambert made seven changes, adding experienced players such as skipper Luke Chambers and centre-halves Toto Nsiala and James Norwood to his line-up.
“I took your advice yesterday, I’m surprised you never tweeted it!’ he laughed with reporters.
“James and Toto haven’t trained, because of the number of games that called off with the U23s we couldn’t get them any game time, so you’re always a bit wary when you throw them into something where they can hurt themselves and you lose them for another three or four weeks.
“I spoke to the lads yesterday and I asked them how they felt and the two of them were really, really strong.”
Wilson, arguably Town’s man of the match, last featured at Lincoln City back on October 24th.
“His knee injury was a really strange one as well, it was just a challenge in training and he found out his knee was giving him a problem,” he said.
“Really pleased with the other guys, the back four was really strong. If we can keep that all the way through, then we’ll be in the mix.”
A tall order for the two of them to play again at Hull on Tuesday? “Maybe these guys, maybe we just go ‘OK, we play, we’ll play right through it’. It’ll take a big effort but the way they played, I think they’ll be champing at the bit to go again.”
Regarding Bennetts’s lively display, he added: “Really good. He’s got a great thing that nobody wants to play against - speed. If you have speed and you’ve got a little trick in your locker [no one wants to play against you].
“That’s his first game since Burton here on December 15th, even he hasn’t played much [in the U23s] because of the weather.
“He can make things happen, he’s an explosive player. It’s difficult to single anybody out because I thought they all put a helluva shift in.”
Asked about Josh Harrop’s important injury time block, he said: “Yes, but when you’re not taking your chances, things like that happen. But, as I said before, if that’s not a team fighting for me, then you’ll never see one. They give you everything and that’s all you can ask for.”
The Town boss sees the draw with the division’s form side as something to build on: “I said that to you yesterday, it only takes one result to kick on and hopefully that’s the case.
“Oxford are a good side, Karl [Robinson]’s got a good team, but with the performance level I don’t think anybody could begrudge us. If we’d won, I think everybody would have said ‘OK, that’s what you deserved’.”
James Norwood was a danger throughout for Town and Lambert admits it’s been frustrating having the former Tranmere man in and out of the side due to injury, out more often than in.
“It’s been frustrating because he’s injured, then he comes back, then he’s injured,” he reflected. “If we can keep him fit and he plays like that consistently, then he’s a handful.
“It’s keeping him fit and the way he is on that side of it. There have been times when he’s not performed and there are times when he plays like that and he’s a handful. He and Troy, with Troy just in behind him, they linked up really well.”
Regarding limiting Norwood’s minutes in recent games, he added: “It was what he could give us. Hopefully he recovers so he can play game after game after game.”
Asked about his planned meeting with owner Marcus Evans, which he revealed at his press conference yesterday, and which was erroneously reported to have happened yesterday rather than in the week to come, Lambert said: “What the massive, massive, massive crisis meeting I’m having?
“That big meeting I’m meant to have? I don’t know, maybe it’s coming, maybe it doesn’t happen. I need to speak to him.”
Asked whether there was a meeting, he responded: “Who was I meeting with?”
When Evans, whom we understand he spoke yesterday, although is yet to hold the face-to-face meeting he previously mentioned, was the response, he referenced the latter stages of yesterday’s press conference when he was clearly unhappy that journalists had spoken to people around the club.
“Did you call someone from the club, somebody tell you?” he said, before adding: “For God’s sake, no.”
Asked whether, after an eventful week, he was coming out fighting, he said: “I’m a fighter, if you want to take me on, I’ll fight you. Same with my team, they’ll fight. I’ve never had anything thrown at me easily, I’m a fighter and if you want to go fight, then we’ll go and fight. The same with the team, they fight and that’s a great thing.”
In his post-match press conference and in national radio interviews Lambert referred to wider and deeper problems at the club which go back beyond his time as manager, with the structure in place at Portman Road.
Quizzed on how a manager overcomes that, he said: “You just have a chat with the owner and see what’s going to happen. He’s a good guy, no problem that way.
“Me and Marcus talk, it’s not unusual that I talk to Marcus, his business is way, way above mine.
“We get on well, I don’t have a problem with him, he doesn’t have a problem with me on that side.
“These meetings that people fabricate are bang out of order. There’s nothing there. I’ll speak to the guy like I normally do whenever he’s available. I don’t know where he is, but I get on well with him.”
Asked further about his previous comments on the structure, he added: “That will remain private. I’ve been at huge football clubs, massive European, top level football clubs. I know how a structure works, but that’s between me and Marcus.”
Oxford boss Robinson felt a draw was a fair result with little in the game.
"It was one of those afternoons when I don’t think either team did enough to win," he told the Oxford Mail.
"We can’t say that we’ve played well and you’d argue there was nothing in the game, other than Alex [Gorrin]’s mistake.
"If you take that away, it was two teams who cancelled each other out.
"We’ve come a long way if we’ve come to Portman Road and we’re disappointed with a point.”
"We know we can play better, we have to play better. At half-time the players were frustrated with each other, which is great for me.”
Regarding his side's best chance headed over by Matty Taylor, he said: “I don’t think we got close enough to Matty. It’s come at him so quick and it’s a bit high. If it’s a foot lower, it’s a tap-in."
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