‘This is a totally different game and they’ll know that’ – Lambert on today’s visit of Oxford
PUBLISHED: 06:00 22 February 2020
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert insists this afternoon’s clash with League One promotion rivals Oxford United is not a proverbial ‘six-pointer’.
Both teams go into this clash having just stopped a poor run of form with morale-boosting victories - the Blues thrashing Burton 4-1 at home last weekend and Oxford hammering AFC Wimbledon 5-0 on Tuesday night. Both know they now need to kick on if they are to finish in the top six.
Ipswich (7th) are four points clear of Oxford (10th) having played a game more. A win today opens the gap to seven, while a defeat would see it close to one... Having always maintained that nothing is won in November, December, January etc, Lambert was asked if we were now reaching make or break territory.
"We're getting there but there are still an awful lot of games left," he said. "We're five points from the top - that's nothing. Nobody is running away with it. You have to hunt what's above you and we'll continue to do that. The home form is going to be key (with eight of the last 12 games at Portman Road) and we need everyone in the stadium right behind us.
"There are plenty of twists and turns still to go. It's about who can hold their nerve.
"I don't get caught up in who has played more games and things like that because what's going to happen is going to happen.
"I've always concentrated on my own team and haven't worried about anything else. If you take care of your own job then you're going to be alright, that's what football is about. Doing your own job. If you do that you have a big chance."
He continued: "We started off unbelievably consistently then lost it, got it back to an extent and then lost it again. If we can keep playing like we did last Saturday then we'll be okay.
"I wasn't under any real stress because we played well at Wimbledon and played well at Sunderland in the first half. Peterborough and Rotherham we didn't turn up. It was just a matter of scoring goals."
Asked about Oxford's big midweek win against AFC Wimbledon, Lambert said: "Wimbledon have had a hard few games with us (0-0 home draw) and Rotherham (2-2 away draw) and then they had to go again, so it's tough to do that. This is a totally different game and they (Oxford) will know that. We're at home and we're going for the win.
"It's a tough game for sure and we'll need everybody at the stadium to drive us on. If they do that we have a really good chance.
"The top teams will be looking over their shoulders because what they have at the moment is not enough.
"Being at the top brings a different nerve that you have to hold and if you get caught up in it all it'll weight heavy on you."
Asked if he had any plans to counter Oxford's threat from wide areas, Nathan Holland and James Henry both in good form, the Blues boss said: "We have to impose our game as well and play our way to try and cause them problems. If we're trying to nullify them and it impacts our game plan then that's not good. We know the system we will play and how we'll try to play. If we do that we have a good chance of winning."
Reflecting on his side's goalless draw at Oxford back on a wet and windy night last month, Lambert said: "I thought we played well considering the conditions. We should have had a penalty in that game, plus a few more throughout the season than what we've actually had. I thought we played a good game."