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Rickie Lambert admits he faces a battle to retain England place
SOUTHAMPTON striker Rickie Lambert knows he has a fight on his hands to keep his place in the England squad.
Lambert had enjoyed a fairytale start to his international career, scoring in his opening two games against Scotland and Moldova, but he drew a blank on Tuesday night as England laboured to a 0-0 draw in Ukraine.
Manager Roy Hodgson says Lambert is a serious contender for his World Cup squad - providing England qualify - but the 31-year-old will face increasing competition for a place in Hodgson's party for the upcoming fixtures against Montenegro and Poland.
Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge are expected to return from their respective injuries, while Danny Welbeck will also be back in contention for the double-header following his one-match suspension.
Lambert, therefore, hopes to maintain his good club form so he is in contention for the crunch game against Montenegro on October 11 and the Poland game four days later.
“I understand that there will be more competition,” he said. “Obviously, I understood that the chances of me playing in Ukraine if everyone was available were very slim anyway.
“But we want Wayne, Daniel and Andy Carroll in here as well. They are great players. All I can try to do is give them another option, trying to impress and hopefully I can do that.
“It has been an exciting few weeks for me and I hope it is going to continue.”
Lambert had enjoyed a lot of freedom in his first two internationals, but on Tuesday was well shackled by the Ukraine defence.
Many people were underwhelmed with the visitors' performance. However, England now know that home wins over Montenegro and Poland in the last two qualification games will guarantee a place at the World Cup in Brazil.
“It is in our own hands now,” he said. “We have two home games now, which we fancy ourselves to win both and that is what we will be trying to do.
“It was a very good away performance in a very hostile atmosphere against a good team so we are happy with a point. We limited them to one shot so that's credit to the boys.”
Basingstoke-born midfielder Tom Cleverley was also involved on Tuesday, coming on as a late substitute for Theo Walcott to win his 11th cap.
Lambert will now rejoin his Southampton team-mates ahead of Sunday's home game against West Ham (kick-off 4pm).
Reading are also in action on Sunday, hosting Brighton and Hove Albion at the Madejski Stadium (kick-off 1.15pm).
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