Lampard answers critics with hat-trick

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BOLTON - Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard responded to the critics who have questioned his future by scoring a sizzling hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers on Sunday.

The 33-year-old's 'demise' has been widely reported in British media with commentators wondering if the England international is past his best as he has struggled to earn a regular starting spot for club and country.

Lampard moved quickly to prove himself at the Reebok, however, setting up Daniel Sturridge's second-minute opener before displaying sublime finishing in a treble that helped the London side to a 5-1 win over their woeful hosts .

"There's only one way [to answer critics] and I've been around a long time so it's never always plain sailing and you just have to stay strong and let your football do the talking," Lampard told Sky Sports.

"If you do that, you keep working hard, things come to you and today things came to me."

He will be hoping he might have done enough to catch the eye of England manager Fabio Capello ahead of Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro.

Lampard was left out of the England starting line-up for last month's qualifier in Bulgaria, the first time he had been dropped from the start of a competitive match since 2007.

He was also on the bench for last weekend's league game against Swansea City but manager Andre Villas-Boas denied there were any doubts over Lampard, who also scored in a 1-1 draw at Valencia in the Champions League last week.

"It's good for him because he had a good solid performance alongside the rest of the team. He arrived with the perfect timing in the box," the Portuguese told a news conference.

"His talent was never in question... it's not a question of age, it's a question of competence and this squad is full of competence and the talent of the players is never in question.

"I think we have enough talent to try to continue to challenge for the Premier League."

The victory took Chelsea to third in the table on 16 points from seven games. Manchester United and Manchester City are three points ahead with the champions top on goal difference.

"I just want to contribute when I'm playing and it's great to play with good players," added Lampard, who had the travelling Chelsea fans chanting his name for the rest of the game after he completed his treble in the 59th minute.

"I feel like I've got a lot left in me and I just want to be part of a successful team at the end of the season."