ONE-CAP wonder Rickie Lambert has been handed the task of firing England back to the top of qualifying Group H tonight and breathing new life into the team’s hopes of reaching next summer’s World Cup.
The 31-year-old Southampton forward, a former beetroot factory worker who was playing third-tier football little more than two years ago, is set to spearhead England’s attack against Moldova at Wembley.
Lambert’s full debut is reward for his heroics in last month’s friendly against Scotland, when he climbed off the bench to head the winner, and a result of injuries to Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge.
Rooney will also miss Tuesday’s trip to Ukraine with a head injury, while Sturridge’s thigh problem ruled him out of this evening but may clear up in time for a tricky away fixture in Kiev.
“I have picked the team and Rickie Lambert will start,” said manager Roy Hodgson. “He deserves a chance. I can’t deny that had Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge been available, it would have been harder for him to get a starting place but I am more than happy to have a player of his calibre to start this game.”
Lambert, who has scored one goal in three Premier League starts this season, is set to be supported from the flanks by Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott. Frank Lampard will earn his 99th cap and line up in midfield with Steven Gerrard, who captains the side, and Jack Wilshere.
Tottenham’s Kyle Walker starts at right-back, with Ashley Cole, Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill making up the rest of the back four.
England’s remaining fixtures
Tonight: Moldova (H), 8pm
Tuesday: Ukraine (A), 7.45pm
11 October: Montenegro (H), 8pm
15 October: Poland (H), TBC