Competition for places is one of those well-worn managerial mantras; it’s what they all dream of… it’s what they all tell the board they need.
In the case of City boss Paul Lambert, he has all the competition for places he needs – and right where he needs it most.
At the sharp end of his play-off hopeful side.
For once again Chris Martin had to settle for a place on the bench and a 20-minute run-out in the 1-0 defeat of visiting Middlesbrough.
Once again Simeon Jackson had to justify his place ahead of the local-born striker; once again, the 24-year-old Canadian international responded with the game’s only goal.
“With him [Martin] breathing down your neck you have to make sure that you go out there and do the best you can every week.
“It’s good to have that – and it’s only going to help us.”
Jackson is unlikely to have enjoyed simpler tap-ins than the one that decided Saturday’s contest.
Anthony McNamee’s perfect diagonal delivery from way out on the right was the basis of all that followed. Grant Holt’s sliding pull-back and a non-existent linesman’s flag did the rest as the former Gills hero grabbed No4 for his new club from little more than six yards out; the goal gaping wide open.
But as Lambert was swift to point out afterwards, you have to be there to score; Jackson’s keen sense of anticipation and awareness had taken him into the right kind of areas – it was hardly his fault that the Boro defenders failed to follow his lead.
“I’ll take them anyway they come,” he laughed, whilst recognising that McNamee’s service was key.
“He’s brilliant,” the Canadian said simply.
“Whenever he gets the ball he’s always looking to get one-on-one and cross the ball into the box.
“And as a striker, all you’ve got to do is to try and get in the box – and try and get on the end of things. And he was magnificent for us today.”
And was duly rewarded for his efforts with the Man of the Match bubbly from the sponsors.
“Credit to him – he definitely helped us to get the three points.”
Was it off-side? There were an awful lot of static defenders doing little else but appealing as Jackson fired home. It was, in fairness, one of those decisions that invariably go against you when you are down and out at the foot of the table.
The thought clearly crossed the goal-scorer’s mind as he wheeled away to celebrate his latest strike.
“I had a little look across just to make sure it wasn’t,” he admitted.
“But I was delighted with the goal – and definitely with the three points.”
It was, of course, another 90-minutes under the belt alongside Holt. The goal was proof positive that the two are starting to click. In theory, it should be a good match – the Big Man and the Little Man; one to use his pace to spin off the physical presence of the other.
“It’s still early days,” said Jackson. “I think it’s only the third or fourth game that we’ve played together. He holds the ball up very well – and it’s good. So trying to get an understanding is vital and it’s going to come with time.
“If it’s with Chrissy [Martin] or whoever, you do try and get an understanding with eachother.”
Hopefully, No4 for the season will just be the start of another prolific season for the 24-year-old.
For how long he can keep Martin on the bench remains to be seen. The latter certainly looked eager and sharp enough on his belated arrival – even if his second touch, a 25-yard free-kick, proved something of a let-down.
“You do get confidence from scoring goals,” said Jackson, all too well aware of the bar he has set himself goals and performance-wise.
“I’ll definitely try and keep that up and, hopefully, that should keep us up towards the top end of the table come the end of the season.”
Victory over a Boro side that wasn’t short on big names by Championship standards can only be of benefit – particularly given the big games arriving between now and Christmas.
“Boro came here and they had a game plan, but we’ve done well. We had to keep our shape and sit back at times, but at the end of the day I don’t think anyone’s complaining when you get three points on the board.”