Rickie Lambert concedes he faces battle to retain England place despite fine start to international career

Despite fine start to international career, returning strikers will make keeping place difficult

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," Lambert 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.

A lack of creativity and fluent passing did not help the 31-year-old either.

Many people were underwhelmed with the performance in the former Soviet republic, but with England now one point clear at the top of Group H with two matches left, there were no complaints from Lambert.

"It was a very good away performance in a very hostile atmosphere against a good team so we are happy with a point," the former Bristol Rovers striker said.

"We limited them to one shot so that's credit to the boys.

"We defended superbly. We didn't want to concede and it worked perfectly so we are really happy."

England need victories against Montenegro and Poland to guarantee their passage to Brazil 2014.

Hodgson has only managed to register wins over Moldova and San Marino in this qualifying campaign, but Lambert is confident that the Three Lions will still be top of Group H come the end of October.

"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."

As a former Football League journeyman, Lambert is used to unforgiving arenas, but the experience of playing in front of 70,000 hostile fans was new to him.

"I have played in the Premier League, but I have never witnessed anything like that," the Kirkby-born striker said.

"The atmosphere was very intense. I really, really enjoyed it."


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