Big Match Preview: Southend United
Town head to Roots Hall tomorrow looking to end a disastrous week on a high. In the last week Town have lost away at Accrington Stanley and at home to Rotherham United. Both games finished 2-0 with a lack of Town bite in the attacking third arguably the most worrying part of all.
Town have also lost top spot to Peterborough United, who replaced Town on Wednesday after putting Accrington Stanley to the sword and winning 4-0. Peterborough, Town and Wycombe are now all tied at the top with 27 points but Town do have a game in hand on both sides.
Despite the negative results Lambert has said the mood at Playford Road has been far from downbeat week: “Fine, they’ve been fine,” he said. “You analyse it and then you let it go, and you have to go again. They know, we spoke about it the other day, they know exactly what the difference is between the last two games and the previous 11.”
Now that Town have lost their unbeaten tag to the start of the season, Lambert believes the squad is more than capable of putting another run together: “We have to. We have to go and try and win. We’ll have a massive following there again.
“As I said before, there will be bumps and bruises along the way, but we’ve started really well and we’ve still got a game in hand, so we’re in a good position.
“If someone said to me in the beginning of the season we’d be in this position I’d say that was OK.”
On being pressed about what he thought the issue has been over the last two games, Lambert replied: “On the basics we’ve not hit the heights that we should have been hitting. In the last 11 games or so we’ve been bang at it on everything we’ve done.
“The last two I don’t think we’ve had that thing that we had in the other 11 games. But we spoke about it yesterday and we know where we think we’ve been going wrong.
“But we also know you’re never going to get games where you’re going to dominate and are going to win every time, it’s impossible.
“You take these little hits here and there. But over the piece, the lads have been absolutely fantastic.”
With the pressure at Town this season so high, after a couple of defeats Town fans are beginning to question the side but Lambert takes the pressure as a positive.
“Yes, that’s football,” he reflected. “We’ve set an unbelievably high standard and when that happens people wonder what’s happened there. It’s human nature.
“I heard Jurgen Klopp saying it the other day, Liverpool’s 100 per cent] record goes and he just laughs because you know it’s coming, at some stage you know it’s coming, you just don’t know when.
“But as long as there’s not a major over hype over what happened, because it happens, there’s no point getting down about it because it’s going to happen.
“It’s just a matter of keeping a level head with it and going through and turning it back around again.
“I do the same as when I win a game, I never dwell on it or get caught up in it. I win it, and then we go again. I’ve never been like that in my career, so I don’t see myself changing.”
On facing Southend tomorrow, Lambert says Southend will be a different proposition to the team that lost so heavily at home in midweek.
Former England international Sol Campbell will be in charge at Roots Hall for the first time after being appointed as manager of the Essex club just hours being they were beaten 7-1 by Doncaster on Tuesday night.
“They have the same players but situation will make a difference, with Sol going in there as their new manager,” said Lambert.
“He was at their game on Tuesday night. Sometimes you can get a reaction when a new manager in sitting in the stands but they had two players sent-off.
“They will be a different proposition for us on Saturday though. We will have to deal with that but we will have a massive support behind us and if we can get back to what we were doing two, three games ago, we will be okay.”
Former Town defender Hermann Hreidarsson is part of Campbell’s coaching team at Roots Hall.
Could the excitement around Roots Hall tomorrow for Campbell’s first game be a positive for Southend? “It could, but it’s still the same group of guys,” Lambert reflected. “I don’t really get caught up in ‘new manager syndrome’ even when I become a new manager myself or am playing against one. It’s about our own team and how we perform.”
Lambert has been switching between the 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 this season and he says he looks at everything before deciding what formation to pick: “We analyse everything,” he said. “We’ve played 4-4-2, we’ve played 4-3-3, I’ve played three at the back, I’ve played four in the middle, I’ve played five in the middle.
“The principles are still the same. The system doesn’t make any difference, it’s the principles of my way of playing that’s the most important thing.
“We’ve won games with [3-5-2], we’ve lost games with it. We’ve won games with 4-4-2, we’ve drawn games with 4-4-2, with 4-3-3 we were getting beaten 1-0 by Wimbledon and then we changed it.
“But it’s the principle, that’s the main thing for me, the principle of what we believe in to win games.”
Tomas Holy will be in goal tomorrow with Luke Chambers, Luke Woolfenden and James Wilson set to make up a back three. Kane Vincent-Young and Luke Garbutt will continue in their wing-back roles.
Flynn Downes could return to partner Cole Skuse in the middle of midfield but if the England U20 international is not fit enough to start then Jon Nolan will occupy the central midfield role.
Alan Judge looks likely to return and start in his favoured number 10 role behind the partnership of Kayden Jackson and James Norwood with Will Keane dropping to the bench.
Historically, the league record between the sides couldn’t be closer with Town having won 10, the Shrimpers 10 and with another 10 matches having ended in draws.
The referee in charge for tomorrow’s clash will be Andy Davies from Hampshire, who is assisted by Darren Blunden and Adrian Waters, with Michael George sitting in as fourth official.
Davies’s last Town match was the 2-0 defeat at Brentford in April when he booked Toto Nsiala and one home player.
So far this season, Davies has taken charge of 10 games in which he’s shown 29 yellows and no reds, with his last outing being last weekend’s 2-0 win for Stoke at home to Fulham.