Lambert on ‘top three’ performance, Woolfenden’s potential and transfer frustrations
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert says this afternoon’s 1-0 home win against Lincoln City ranked as one of his team’s best displays of the season.
Luke Woolfenden's headed finish from a Luke Garbutt dead ball delivery, right on half-time, proved enough for the Blues to secure all three points and move back to the top of the League One table.
"For me, it was one of our top three performances of the season," enthused the Blues boss, whose side are now unbeaten in five league games at the start of 2020 heading into a run of games against fellow promotion-chasers Rotherham (a), Peterborough (h) and Sunderland (a).
"We were great right from the off against a good side. They were pushed back, I don't think they could really get at us. Michael (Appleton) has got a good side, but we were very, very good. Very good.
"(Luke) Garbutt has got set plays in him that are incredible. He puts it in the right area and Woolfy does well at the far post. Our dominance deserved that goal. We'd kept the ball for about two minutes before (Will) Keane put it just past the post. We had some great moments and some great combination play in their half. It was relentless.
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"It's always on an edge at 1-0, everybody knows that. Ideally we would have liked a second goal. We tried. I think the goalkeeper made a good save from Garbutt. We had so many good moments. Willo (James Wilson) had a good chance with his head too. But 1-0 is a great score, any manager will tell you that."
With Town moving back to the top of the table for the first time since mid-November, Lambert said: "I never bother with the table. It's May when it matters. I see it if it's on TV but I don't pay attention to it. I focus on my guys and staff. I don't deal with social media and all the nonsense that the world provides these days. I'm happy in my own bubble. I'm too long in the tooth for all that. Even as a player I didn't care about the table until the prizes get handed out.
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"You can't get carried away because it's only January. You don't win anything in January. You don't win anything in February, March or April. Doing well in those months gives you a chance, obviously.
"I can only concentrate on our team and our dressing room. We just go from one game to the next. We have Rotherham now on Tuesday. That will be a different game. We know what's coming. We'll go there and try and play as well as we have been. The form we are in at the moment is really, really good.
"After the relegation last year I don't think anyone expected us to be in the position we're in. People with naiveity, without a doubt, would have expected us to be in this position, but they don't know what's happened when you've had relegation and how downbeat it is.
"It's been an extraordinary turnaround. It's extraordinary to be in the position we're in. When you get relegated it's so tough, so the turnaround for us has been huge."
On goalscorer Woolfenden, whose development continues at a pace amidst Premier League and Championship clubs keeping a close eye, Lambert said: "I saw him in pre-season and I thought 'dear oh dear, we need to get a centre-half in'. He was a wee bit off it and I thought 'do I go with the kid at Burton?'. But we put him in and he's never looked back. I think his time at Swindon did him the world of good.
"He's really level-headed, really humble. If you ask me do I think he'll be a top class centre-half I'd say he's on the road to it. I think he's got an exceptional chance if he keeps his feet on the ground. He comes from a good family I think. The laid back attitude could be beneficial to him going forwards.
"You've got to remember he's only 21. He's playing on potential. You've not got the finished article there by a long stretch. It's the same with Flynn Downes. He's 21 and being linked with whoever. Flynn Fownes is another one who could be an incredible footballer
"The two of them are humble. If they were big time you'd have to knock it out of them, but they're not like that. If they keep that attitude throughout their life then they'll go far."
With Lambert naming an unchanged side, his squad rotation policy having stopped in 2020, the Blues boss said: "Now it's a case of you either play yourself out of the team or you play yourself in it. It's up to you. The guys, in this moment, are playing really well.
"Keane is playing like what he did a right few years ago, Emyr Huws has done great playing back-to-back games. His left foot is great. He does the simple things really well. The hardest ball in the game is the simple one and he does it brilliantly. That's the biggest compliment I can give him because no-one wants to play the simple pass.
"Emyr wasn't ready earlier this season by his own admission. I spoke to him every day asking how he feels and he said he wasn't ready to dislodge Cole (Skuse) and Flynn (Downes) at that time. He didn't feel quite ready. If you ask him now it's a different ball game. He's in a really good place. I'm really pleased with him and Downes. They are striking up a really good partnership. And Judgey is playing the best football of his time here."
With supporters having chanted joyously about Town being top of the league, Lambert said: "The fans can sing what they want. They pay unbelievable money to come. This stadium has not been rocking like that for years - 18 thousand or whatever it was. The atmosphere is brilliant. As I said before, it was about getting the fans back in.
"They might not realise it, but the fans have got a job to do when they come here. They have to support us and sing whatever they want to sing. It's their job. They are part of us. We need them and we need them to do their job. We'll try and do our job and hopefully, collectively, right from the top to the bottom of the club, we can have a bit of success - whether it's this year or next year of whatever. The fans are vital to the football club."
Asked if it had been a conscious decision for the players to stop doing their collective hand holding celebrations following a win, Lambert said: "No. If you have ideas the guys will either take that on or not. It's important to acknowledge the support because that North Stand is brilliant. We're getting more and more people in there and more and more aggression.
"I see the guy last week at Tranmere (who came on the pitch after the winner)... I don't think the guy did anything really wrong to merit getting a ban. I don't think he did. Nobody wants to see it, but people want to come and enjoy themselves."
Quizzed as to whether there was any transfer news, Lambert said: "We can't. We've tried to bring one or two in, but the money is incredible."