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Al-Hamadi: We Need to Block Out External Noise and Stay Focused - Ipswich Town News

Town new boy Ali Al-Hamadi, the first Iraqi to play for the club, has stressed the importance of he and his colleagues remaining level-headed during their ongoing challenge to claim automatic promotion this season.

The Blues, who are at home to Birmingham City tomorrow at Portman Road, survived an almighty scare on Tuesday when rock-bottom Rotherham converted a stoppage-time penalty and were on the brink of earning a 3-3 draw that might, in the final reckoning, have proved costly to their hosts.

But just a minute later the game was turned in dramatic fashion when home sub Omari Hutchinson’s terrific strike made it 4-3, which enabled Town to claim victory on a night when they were well below par, which was acknowledged by manager Kieran McKenna afterwards.

"It was some game and that was some moment,” said Al-Hamadi, who will turn 22 next Friday. "That’s the beauty of football sometimes, when a moment of quality decides it.

"We weren’t at our best, definitely in the second half, but the win was testament to our spirit.

"I think we’ve always got that, especially in the latter stages of games when you need to find an extra gear. It wasn’t one of our better performances but it was nice to pick up the win.”

The performance was put to one side, if not forgotten, by the Town fans at the end, the mood changing in a split second thanks to Chelsea loanee Hutchinson’s key contribution, and no one enjoyed celebrations following the goal more than Al-Hamadi, who appeared to headbutt the goalscorer.

"I don’t even remember doing that, to be fair,” the striker laughed. "I spoke to him afterwards and said, ‘Did I head butt you?’. That probably just sums me up, to be fair, just rough!”

Reflecting on what he can bring to the Town side, the striker, who has one goal in his five appearances off the bench so far, reflected: "I think I can bring different qualities to the team and obviously I am having to be a bit patient right now.

"Kieffer [Moore] has come in and he’s doing really well in the role so I’ve been looking to come off the bench and make an impact.

"I’m trying to find my way at the beginning of my time with Ipswich, but I also have the confidence and self-belief to want to start games and want to make an impact on this team and help us to get promoted.

"I’m not the type of person that’s just going to be happy with just being around and seeing how things go. I’m always trying to push the boys who are playing and I know if it was the other way round, they would be doing the same.

"It’s really healthy competition for places here and that’s down to the gaffer; it’s competition in a good way and not people getting annoyed, angry or upset.

"It’s more about you keeping your levels up and your standards high, and making sure that when you come off the bench you leave your stamp on the game, even if you’re only on there for a few minutes. Just impact the team in a positive way and thankfully I’ve been able to do that so far.”

Recalling the end-of-game atmosphere, Al-Hamadi added: "I think it was more relief than anything else, because it would have been a bit of a sucker punch to draw that game.

"Now we’re just ticking the games off, really, and I think at this stage of the season, it’s trying our best not to get too high or too low with results and performances.

"We want to stay level-headed and consistent in everything we’re doing. I’ve only played at Portman Road twice now but both times the atmosphere has been brilliant and they’ve been two really good games to be involved in, so hopefully we can carry that home form on.”

Asked if it might be difficult to remain calm in the thick of an engrossing promotion race with so much at stake, the former Wimbledon striker said: "It’s not long ago that people were saying we were out of it because teams had caught up with us, but I think the most important thing for us as a group is to keep the belief within the team and in the dressing room circle of players, staff and everyone involved.

"We need to just block out any external noise and stay as focused as possible on every single game and not look too far ahead.

"There’s still a long way to go and there will be several twists and turns along the way.

"It would be great if we could go on and win all 13 of our remaining games, but it’s more than likely in football that’s not going to happen. We just need to keep taking it one game at a time.”

Al-Hamadi knows manager McKenna will ensure his players continue with the same humility that has taken them so far this season. He added: "The boss has been brilliant, to be fair. I knew he was going to be good but I’ve been even more surprised at how well he operates with everything – his energy, his enthusiasm, his man-management – and he’s a really good person as well as a good tactician.

"He’s been top with me, helping me to get settled in well. He’s very good at keeping everyone calm and level-headed.

"When your leader is the coolest person in the room you just have to follow, and he sets a great example for us. It’s been unbelievable, to be fair, and I’m really excited at continuing to growing that relationship and learning more under him hopefully.”

The Iraqi international has also been impressed with McKenna’s detailed planning, adding: "When I go away with the national team, I’m probably a bit more used to that side of it. We were just away at a major tournament so it was a similar system looking at phases of the game, set-pieces and everything to what we have here.

"The manager here is more detailed in his approach – he leaves nothing to chance – and with managers at my previous clubs it’s been nothing like as detailed. Even things like throw-ins really matter at the top level and sometimes they can be disregarded or at least not worked on in the detail they are here.

"We tend to cover all aspects of every game and I think that’s why he has been so successful and why he will continue to be successful wherever he goes – hopefully with Ipswich!”

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