‘I owe other teams nothing... I owe Ipswich Town’ – Lambert on experimental team selections
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Ipswich Town face Nottingham Forest in a Championship match at Portman Road this afternoon. STUART WATSON previews the action.
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert insists he will not pick young players as ‘a gift’ over the coming weeks.
It looks only a matter of time before the rock-bottom Blues’ relegation to League One is rubber-stamped given the gap to safety is 13 points with just 27 to play for.
Lambert has spoken about taking a look at some players he hasn’t seen a lot of since taking over last October and the future of the club being built around homegrown players.
He named six academy graduates in his squad for Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at Bristol City – Idris El Mizouni coming off the bench for his senior debut – with rare starts handed to Toto Nsiala and Kayden Jackson too.
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“I owe other teams nothing – I owe Ipswich Town more than anything,” said the Blues boss, who could recall the likes of Matthew Pennington (fit again after illness), Jonas Knudsen, James Bree, Cole Skuse, Teddy Bishop (all rested in midweek), Collin Quaner (fit again after knee problem) for today’s visit of play-off chasing Nottingham Forest.
“I’m not playing the kids because it’s a gift or a present and I’m saying ‘go on, go and have a football career’. I’m playing them because I think they can really do something.”
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No-one could argue about Town upholding the integrity of the competition given they have claimed four 1-1 draws from their last five games, three of which came against sides in the promotion mix.
Performances have been highly encouraging, but they have become further cut adrift courtesy of victories for Bolton, Reading, Rotherham and Millwall over the last seven days.
“There’s no point at looking at anybody else,” said Lambert, with games against Hull (h), Bolton (a) and Brentford (a) coming after next weekend’s international break. “It’s never over until it’s mathematically over.
“Anything can happen in football because it’s the most unpredictable game ever. All you need to do is go on a little run.
“It’s going to be unbelievably tough to do it but we’re playing well. The crowd are right behind us and it’s not a normal situation at all.
“We’re playing well, we’re creating chances and we just need to take them. That’s probably been the downside of the whole season really, not taking chances.”
Last five finishes: 17th, 21st, 16th, 14th, 11th (all Championship)
Manager: Martin O’Neill (Jan ‘15): P10 W4 D2 L4
Last game: L 3-1 Aston Villa (h)
Away form: W3 D10 L5 F24 A25
Last 10 games: LWLWD DWLWL
Margins of victory: 1 (x7), 2 (x6), 3+ (x2)
Margins of defeat: 1 (x7), 2 (x5)
Most league starts: 37: Pantilimon; 33: Lolley; 32: Colback; 30: Robinson; 26: Darikwa
Top-scorers: 16: Grabban; 9: Lolley; 8: Cash; 5: Murphy
Nottm Forest 2 Ipswich Town 0
Date: Saturday, December 1, 2018
In-form striker Lewis Grabban scored both goals as Town ended up comfortably beaten to slip further adrift at the bottom.
Bartosz Bialkowski spilled a shot for the opener (9) before marauding right-back Tendayi Darikwa set up the second (38). Forest hit the woodwork three times.
10 – Away games without victory for Forest (D5 L5)
1-1 – The score in four of Town’s last five games
20 – Of Town’s 49 pros are academy graduates (Signings: 12: McCarthy, 9: Hurst, 7: Lambert, 1: Jewell)
Ipswich Town team news
• Dean Gerken, Matthew Pennington, Flynn Downes (all illness) and Collin Quaner (minor knee problem) are all available again.
• James Collins has started training again after missing the last two with a calf injury.
• James Bree, Jonas Knudsen, Cole Skuse and Teddy Bishop all started the heartening 1-1 draw at West Brom and could return to the team after being rested for Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at Bristol City.
• Callum Elder (unspecified), Grant Ward (knee), Emyr Huws (knee), Tom Adeyemi (Achilles), Jack Lankester (back), Freddie Sears (knee), Will Keane (hamstring), Ben Folami (Achilles) and Ben Morris (knee) remain sidelined.
Nottingham Forest team news
• Left-back Jack Robinson is available again after serving a two-game ban.
• 16-goal top-scorer Lewis Grabban hasn’t featured since the middle of February and continues to nurse an Achilles injury.
• Martin O’Neill admits he is tempted to throw Matty Cash straight into the team after the midfielder missed the last six games with an Achilles injury.
• Former Blues favourite Daryl Murphy, now 36, could replace Karim Ansarifard.
Opposition key man
The versatile attacker has produced nine goals and nine assists so far this season. One of the best dribblers in the league, Forest look to him to provide the game-changing moments.
Ipswich Town 13/5
Nottm Forest 5/4
Keith Stroud (Hampshire)
Games: 23, Yellows: 79, Reds: 3
Ipswich Town 2 Nottm Forest 1
Forest in transition under O’Neill. Pressure’s off Town. They’re playing well. The crowd are onside. This could be the game where they add the finishing touch.