‘We have to get back on the rails’ – Lambert on Town’s 1-0 defeat at Portsmouth
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert chose to focus his post-match comments around referee Brett Huxtable following this afternoon’s 1-0 defeat at Portsmouth.
Ronan Curtis scored the only goal of the game in the 50th minute to decide a clash which was played amidst torrential rain and saw 14 bookings issued to players and staff from both sides.
Luke Chambers was dismissed in the closing stages for his second yellow card, with Lambert having earlier withdrawn Toto Nsiala in the 38th minute after the defender had made a couple of strong challenges off the back of an early caution.
The Blues created very little in this game and have now dropped to third in the League One table following three straight defeats in all competitions (and one win in 11).
"I always thought one goal, the way it was going, looking at the game, was going to be decisive," said Lambert, when asked for his summary. "Toto coming off disrupted us a little bit. I had to take him off for obvious reasons.
"I think the way the referee was going about it I didn't know what way his cards were going to go, so I had to protect Toto and the team. I thought Toto had a good game for the time he was on. I didn't see any problem with his tackling.
"What set the tone of the game was the first challenge on Luke (Chambers, from Ellis Harrison in the first minute). I thought it was a bad one. I just thought some of the decisions were a bit strange.
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"We had some good moments, we had balls going across the face of goal and had some good play, but they got the decisive goal."
Asked what he said to Huxtable as the teams left the field at half-time, Lambert said: "What annoyed me was that Luke (Chambers) had the ball between him and the player and anybody that plays football knows the defender can't get that. He puts Luke down and they actually get the throw, which was bizarre. That's why I thought the referee was uncertain all game. I didn't know what he was going to do. That's why I took Toto off.
"As I say, the first challenge in the game set the tone."
Having taken time to explain his decision to Nsiala after the player had left the field, Lambert said: "I said to him that's the first time in my career that I've taken someone off thinking 'what way is the referee going to go here?' The way the referee was going I wasn't quite sure what he was going to do about Toto. He made a really good tackle and everybody was up in arms saying it was a free-kick. It was then I thought 'no', but his game was good."
With James Norwood missing a golden second half chance and also seeing a low cross just evade Will Keane, Lambert said: "We had some opportunities, but it's just not falling for us at the moment. The effort is there, I can't fault the lads' effort. We have to get back to what we were doing in the first 15 games or so. We're still in the mix."
Quizzed what his team needs to do to rediscover their early season form, Lambert said: "Hard work, sheer graft - that's what gets you there. Without that it doesn't matter if you have ability. If you don't have the hard work and the graft...
"I've told the lads that every game they play is going to be a cup final because of the atmospheres in the stadiums and the expectancy levels. You have to rise above it. They know the issues.
"It's collective. Everybody is in it together, which is great. They are a really honest group and you can't ask for any more. It's about keeping the ball out of the net and scoring - if you do that then you reap the rewards."
With Town now hosting Gillingham on Boxing Day, Lambert added: "Listen, we've lost two in the bounce in the league and one in the cup. It's not something we want to prolong. We have to get back on the rails. We lost two on the bounce before and we bounced back. We have to bounce back again now on Thursday. We have to be more back to what we were at the start of the season."
"Listen, it's not even halfway into the season. This time last year Portsmouth were sitting top and never got near it. That can happen. Listen, Ipswich will be there or thereabouts - I've got no doubt about that. Hopefully we can do it automatically. Hopefully we can win it. We're still a really good side. As I've said before, you don't win anything in December."