‘If you don’t want pressure, don’t play for the football club’ – Lambert on 2-1 defeat at Blackpool
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert says his team needs to start showing a ‘nasty streak’ after they lost further ground on the League One play-off places with a last-gasp 2-1 defeat at Blackpool this afternoon.
It was a familiar tale for the Blues as a lack of ruthlessness in both boxes cost them dearly. A catalogue of defensive errors led to Kieran Dewsbury-Hall putting the Tangerines ahead in the first half (26), with Town spurning a series of good chances either side of that.
Following Freddies Sears' equaliser (54), it was a wide open game that Town looked the more likely to edge. Then, in stoppage-time, Sears was denied at one end with a quick counter-attack ending with Joe Nuttall heading home.
That's five defeats in seven, with Town now five points adrift of the play-off places heading into their final 10 matches - home matches coming up against promotion-chasing duo Fleetwood (Tuesday) and Coventry (Saturday) this coming week.
"It's a sore one because I don't think we deserved to even draw the game. I thought we deserved to win the game," said Lambert.
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"I thought we should have had a penalty in the first half. Freddie has got his body between the man and the ball - and everybody knows, if you're in front and there's a slight touch, then that's a penalty. It doesn't matter if the referee doesn't think there's enough of a touch. That's wrong. It's still a penalty. If that was on the other side of the box then I think it would have been a free-kick."
On the dramatic end to the game, he said: "I thought Freddie was excellent. I don't know how much he had left in the tank. When he was going through there I thought he was going to poke it by the keeper, but then their goal... The ball travels 70 yards and then we should have dealt with it. We should have stopped the cross. Garbs (Luke Garbutt) should have stopped it travelling that way anyway. Josh Earl could have also stopped the cross. Then when it gets in the box anything can happen. That was gutting."
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When it was put to him that Blackpool's opener was even worse from his side's point of view, the Blues boss said: "I don't know what Garbs was thinking there. He's trying to flick at it on the edge of his box. It's like a roll and flick. That ain't professional football. Professional football is exactly that - professional. It's not five-a-aside. It's not for fun, it's a professional game."
He continued: "It doesn't matter how well you are playing. The lads know they are playing well. We ask them their opinions and how they feel, and they said they feel comfortable and are playing really well. They know themselves though that you can't defend that way and expect to win games.
"I've just said to them there 'you are in a really good position still to do something, but you cannot defend the way you defended there and have the dominance we had in the game and not take the chances'."
Asked if his players were feeling the pressure, Lambert said: "Yeah, but I'll go back to it. If you don't want pressure, don't play for the football club. This football club brings that. You either embrace it or you get frightened by it. You have to embrace it. It's a big club and you need big people to step up to the plate. Now is the time they need to step up to the plate."
Asked if his players believed they can still be in the promotion mix, Lambert said: "Aye, because they are playing well. I thought we should have won the game. We had some really good chances to get goals but it never materialised. The young kids came on and did well for us, Freddie (Sears) back is a bonus for us, Bish (Teddy Bishop) back is a bonus, but you've got to start taking chances."
On the up-and-coming home games against Fleetwood and Coventry, he said: "We have to win them both. If we do that we are right back in it, but we have to win them."
Flynn Downes will be suspended for both those game after picking up his 10th league booking of the season for a frustrated shove.
"That was a strange one," said Lambert. "I thought the referee gave us the foul initially. I don't why he changed his mind, but he changed his mind and books Flynn. I don't know what he saw there. But yeah, Flynn will be missed for those two games."
With 18-year-old striker Tyreece Simpson introduced for his league debut, Lambert added: "He's a strong, strong kid with a nice touch. I thought him and (Armando) Dobra did well when they came. He's one for the future Tyreece, as is Dobra and some of the others. They need time."
Then came the following exchange...
Q: If you dominate a game, create chances and lose to a suckerpunch then, in isolation, you can park that and move on. But this is becoming a recurring theme now, the lack of ruthlessness in both boxes. Supporters will say they are bored of hearing you say 'we dominated the game and we didn't take our chances' because it's happening time and time again...
A: I'm bored of saying it to you. It's the same stuff I'm saying. You may as well wheel me out and get me to say the same stuff. It's the exact same. Number one, you can't defend that way and try to do silly things like that. Two, you can't dominate the way we do and not score.
The lads are giving us anything. You can't ask for anymore than that. They're playing well, but you've got to be ruthless in both boxes to win games. That's why it's called the professional football game.
Q: How do you fix that? How do you change it?
A: We've just got to keep working with the guys, keep them upbeat and hopefully it turns. You've got to work in training, work in the games, you've got to work hard, you've got to be ruthless with a lot of stuff. I've never been involved in football where nice guys really win things. You've got to have that nasty streak in you. We've got to get that out of them.
Q: Is that's what's lacking in this squad?
A: There's got to be a nasty streak and not an acceptance. Have that and your career will go far. You can't think you're just going to be a footballer for 15/20 years. You have to want to win something.
Q: I know your eyes are still very much on this season. You'll say your team is still in the fight. We know what the remaining fixtures look like. But, given what you've just said, are you starting to now solidify your thoughts on what needs to happen in the summer?
A: Listen, this football club needs to improve. I'd say it even if I wasn't here, the club is that big it should be better than what it is, that's for sure. The football club generates a massive support behind it and it needs big players to step up. If you can't handle pressure then you shouldn't play for the football club because this club demands that. You have to thrive on that.
Q: Is there any self reflection on your behalf? That's five defeats in seven...
A: Aye, there always is, even when we win. There's always that. I never think anything other than trying to get the team to win. The good thing is the guys give me everything. I can't ask any more in terms of effort and commitment and the way they play, but you've got to be ruthless in both boxes.
But I've always done that, from the day I started.
Q: I know you've got to stand here and try to be positive because that's your job, but these defeats hurt you - don't they?
A: I used to be horrendous losing games. I went to speak to an old manager about how he handled defeats and he gave me the best it of advice I've ever had. He said analyse it for 24 hours and if you let it go any further than that then it will kill you and it will kill your team and everybody else. I understand what he meant by that.
Q: How do you put some belief back in the players and the fans now? This season is drifting and has been drifting for some time.
A: Winning. That's what's going to turn it around. As I say, I can't fault the way the lads are playing. They come here and dominant most of the game, they have chances to score, they play well, but, as I said before, you cannot defend that way. That's not right.