Press Association The Dutchman, who can play at full-back or in midfield, missed the defeat to Crystal Palace with a hamstring strain but is back in contention to face the Saints. Otherwise, Paul Lambert is choosing from the same squad with Christian Benteke, Libor Kozak, Charles N’Zogbia, Jores Okore, Nicklas Helenius and Gary Gardner all long-term absentees. Lambert must attempt to shut out off-field intrigue long enough to secure the one win he believes will secure Barclays Premier League safety. Villa go into the weekend fixtures four points above the drop zone with five games to play, but their scrap for safety was shunted down the news agenda when it was announced this week that assistant manager Ian Culverhouse and head of football operations Gary Karsa had been suspended by the club. As long-term associates of Lambert, the decision has created considerable interest and no little speculation. But an ongoing internal investigation means Lambert cannot speak publicly on the matter. Instead, he has attempted to focus the minds of players and public alike on the real business at hand – securing a potentially decisive win. Southampton visit Villa Park on Saturday, with Lambert looking to end a losing sequence stretching four games. “Forget about the rest of it, my main focus is to prepare for the game, to go and get the lads ready as best as we can,” he said. “We’ll try and get the supporters behind us, get everyone positive and try to win a game. That’s my job to try and do. “(One more win) and we’ll be in touching distance (of safety). We always say to the lads to be positive no matter what, we don’t talk about being negative. “But the lads know the situation, they don’t need me to tell them. They know it themselves and we’ll be ready for this one.” Lambert admits his side seemed to have lifted themselves out of the relegation battle with a 1-0 win over Chelsea last month, but no points from the last 12 available has dragged them back in. “After the Chelsea game everybody thought ‘great, no problem’, nobody foresaw the last four games,” he said. “After Chelsea we were sitting with feet up and all of a sudden, four games later, you’ve got a bit more to do to get over the line. “It (complacency) never came from ourselves, as a group or as a team. Outside people, pundits and all that, thought Aston Villa were totally safe but I’ve never given that implication. “We know that now is the time to win a game.” Artur Boruc has beaten his back injury in time for Southampton’s trip. The Poland stopper’s return offsets the continued absence of fellow goalkeeper Kelvin Davis, also with back trouble. Maya Yoshida (knee) and Gaston Ramirez (ankle) will also miss out. Saints are aiming to hit back to winning form after last weekend’s frustrating 1-0 home loss to Cardiff. Well aware of the watchful gaze of England coaches Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington, Rickie Lambert said he must set all World Cup thoughts aside in favour of fighting for form and goals with Saints. “Most importantly, we’ve got four games to try and get more points for Southampton and try and push us up further in the league,” said the 32-year-old target man. “We got asked the same question a few games ago – ‘we’ve got nothing to play for’ – but then we won three out of four games, so the lads are still very hungry and very determined to do well and that’s what we’ll be trying to do in the remaining four games. “I think we’ve had either Ray or Roy watching our games for the last 10 games I think, so we know we are getting watched and that’s brilliant for them to be watching Southampton. “I try not to focus on it, if I’m being honest. I try to play my own game, I think that’s the best way to go about it. “I think you can’t think too much about it, because I think it might affect your game. “You’ve just got to get on with it, try and do well for Southampton and hopefully Roy or Ray are impressed, that’s it really.” Leandro Bacuna is back in the Aston Villa squad for Saturday’s home clash with Southampton.
Published on November 30, 2019 at 1:39 am Contact Andrew: [email protected] | @CraneAndrew When Gabrielle Cooper’s second free throw bounced off the rim and into the hands of Anna Wilson, she immediately swung the ball up the floor in transition. Syracuse was already down 14 and with the Orange’s latest attempt at a spark secured, Wilson eventually found Hannah Jump on the left wing.The freshman guard rose and knocked down her eighth 3-pointer of the night, a main source of offense when the Cardinal needed one to counteract their own shooting slumps. Syracuse had only seven 3-pointers all game at that point. The next time down the court, Stanford hit another 3, and its lead extended to 20.“(Jump) played fantastic,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “She got wide open looks at the rim and was tough to guard.”Just one day after the Orange’s offense had their best output of the young season, they sputtered against Stanford. As quick as Thursday’s point totals climbed toward those from last year, they dropped back down on Friday as an offense that’s struggled to find consistent rhythm faced the same issue. The Orange only shot 15-for-61 from the field against Stanford, and an 11-0 run by the Cardinal to close the first half created a lead that reached as large as 20 in the third quarter. Instead of earning a spot in the Greater Victoria Invitational finals against a third top-10 opponent this week, the No. 18 Orange (4-2) lost 77-59 to No. 3 Stanford (7-0) and face unranked Green Bay in the consolation game tomorrow.“You can look at this game and see they’re the No. 3 team in the country,” Hillsman said.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn Syracuse’s tournament-opening win against Houston on Thursday night, a 51.6% field goal percentage sparked an offensive operation not seen in the Orange’s first four games of the year. Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi continued her season-long development as a shooter and notched a career-high 16 points while Kiara Lewis neared a triple-double — acting as both the producer and facilitator SU needs her to be.Early on against the Cardinal, Syracuse managed to match that scoring rate. Then Lewis air-balled a jump-shot and that spiraled into a first quarter where the Orange and Stanford combined for 8-for-29 from the field — including 2-of-15 on 3-pointers. SU, saved by the fact that the Cardinal missed their own open looks, only trailed by three after 10 minutes.But then Stanford began to capitalize off the entrance passes to Amaya Finklea-Guity that got knocked away. It turned the shooting slumps of Gabrielle Cooper and Emily Engstler into its own transition points, capitalizing on a frame when Syracuse had just one field goal. “That’s gonna do it for you,” Hillsman said.A third-quarter burst by the Orange threatened to close the gap. Three-pointers by Digna Strautmane, Engstler and Teisha Hyman trimmed the Stanford lead to 11 by the final 10 minutes. But similar to how Oregon pulled away from the Orange last Sunday with a 31-point third quarter, the Cardinal used 26 in the fourth to do the same.“It’s just one quarter against Stanford and one quarter against Oregon,” Hillsman said. Djaldi-Tabdi drained her second 3 of the night from the corner and Lewis drove in the lane to draw a foul on consecutive possessions, but then the Cardinal began to connect on jump shots again. Their pause in the early stages of the fourth quarter had allowed the lead to dance in and out of single digits. Then, it quickly extended up to 14, 17 and eventually settled at 18 by the time the final horn sounded, signifying the Orange’s largest loss since last year’s ACC tournament against Notre Dame.Back-to-back double digit games from Djaldi-Tabdi and Lewis weren’t enough, and Syracuse sputters into its tournament finale with similar offensive questions it had entering it. Just as the bright spots were starting to emerge, Stanford’s tight man-to-man defense covered them back up. SU shots started to again clank off the rim and bounce off the backboard, and whistles pierced the air signaling turnovers, a second defeat in three games inching closer.“Our pressure picked up and we started forcing some tempo, forcing some turnovers,” Hillsman said, “That was the key to the game, we just gotta continue to play for 40 minutes. We can’t play 30 minutes against good teams.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+