Under-fire Frank Lampard admitted he was grateful to receive the backing of Chelsea fans after Tammy Abraham’s hat-trick sealed a 3-1 win against Luton in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.
In just his second season in charge at Chelsea, Lampard is fighting to avoid the sack after a wretched run in the Premier League.
An embarrassing FA Cup exit against Championship opposition would have pushed Lampard closer to the axe, but Abraham’s clinical display gave his manager some much-needed breathing space.
Abraham scored twice in the first half before Jordan Clark got one back for Luton after yet another blunder from Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Luton gave Lampard some nervous moments after that, before Abraham finally sent Chelsea through to a last 16 tie at second-tier Barnsley.
Although supporters are not allowed into stadiums due to the coronavirus lockdown, Chelsea fans group ‘We Are The Shed’ created a banner reading “In Frank we trust. Then. Now. Forever,” that was displayed for the first time during the game.
“I knew about the banner maybe a week or two ago, directly from those who put it together, who are obviously massive supporters of this club; and I was very appreciative,” said Lampard, who won the FA Cup four times as a Chelsea player.
“I don’t know if emotional was the word, but people who know about how I feel about this club will understand, it’s a two-way thing from the first time I came here, maybe 20 years ago nearly.
“I know the modern world has moved on with social media there are eyes all over the world.
“But one thing I know is that when I’m at the Bridge, the fans have shown me huge support as a player, and now as manager here as well.”
Lampard will know that Chelsea, who were FA Cup runners-up last season, are still a long way from the finished article.
“All I want to do is repay the fans with being successful at the club, and working through a tough moment to bring a long-term success to the club,” he said.
“I keep saying recently there will be moments of pain. When you see the fans that are there to stick with you from now, and going forward, that’s an important thing for me.”
One of Lampard’s biggest headaches has been the poor form of Timo Werner and there was more bad news for the Germany striker as he missed a late penalty.
After notoriously demanding Blues owner Roman Abramovich bankrolled a £200 million spending spree in the close-season, Lampard was expected to mount a title challenge.
But a dismal run of five defeats in their last eight Premier League games has left Chelsea languishing in ninth place.
As snow blanketed west London, leaving the Stamford Bridge pitch with a white dusting at kick-off, the potentially treacherous conditions must have alarmed Lampard, who made seven changes from the midweek league defeat at Leicester.
But Chelsea made the perfect start in the 11th minute when Werner’s deflected cross reached Abraham, who slotted a composed low finish into the far corner from 10 yards.
Abraham’s movement was too clever for Luton and the striker netted again six minutes later.
Reece James hooked a cross into the Luton area and Abraham got in front of his marker to power an unstoppable header over Sluga for his 10th goal of the season.
Luton were gifted a lifeline in the 30th minute when James Bree crossed towards Clark and his scuffed shot crept past Kepa’s woeful attempted save.
In the 74th minute, Callum Hudson-Odoi surged away down left, played a one-two with Billy Gilmour and crossed low for Abraham to complete his treble from a yard out.
Werner had a chance to score just his second goal in 16 games when he was tripped by Clark, but his dreadful spell continued as his tame penalty was saved by Sluga.