|Bolton Wanderers 2 v 0 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 15th January 2022 Kick-off 15:00
McKenna: I Thought The Game Was There For Us
Saturday, 15th Jan 2022 18:38
Boss Kieran McKenna admitted the Blues didn’t hit the heights of last week’s 4-0 win at Gillingham as they were beaten 2-0 at Bolton Wanderers but felt it wasn’t a bad performance and that the game was there for the taking at the time the Trotters took the lead.
Goals from Kieran Lee and Dapo Afolayan on 74 and 81 saw the home side to the three points and McKenna to his first defeat as Blues boss.
“We definitely didn’t hit the heights of last week,” the Northern Irishman said. “I didn’t think it was a bad performance. I thought there were elements of the game that we were pleased with.
“I thought we started well. The first 20, 25 minutes, I thought we controlled the game. Probably the worst part of the game was the end of the first half.
“I thought in that spell we went away from what we’d done well, the game became a bit random and scatty from our point of view, went away from the principles that have gone well for us over the last couple of weeks, so that was what we spoke about at half-time.
“We made a couple of changes from a tactical point of view and I thought in the second half we controlled the whole game really. We didn’t create enough in the final third.
“We got up to the edge of their box a lot, we played almost the whole game in their half, but we didn’t create enough chances, we didn’t penetrate enough, for sure.
“We had momentum and pressure but we didn’t create enough clear chances and then, if you do that, the game’s still open and obviously two poor goals to concede, really out of nothing in terms of the momentum in the game and we end up going home empty-handed and disappointed.”
Did he feel the players tried to force things in that spell, that they should have played with more patience?
“A little bit, yes,” he reflected. “We definitely lost control of our build-up which is something we have done well over the last couple of games, we’ve built-up from the back well, have managed to find a spare man.
“We weren’t doing that. We ended up getting locked into positions and situations we didn’t want to be and ended up going longer and turning the ball over more cheaply than we wanted to.
“We lost control of the ball, the game becomes a little bit stretched then, so we weren’t getting as good pressure as we had done earlier in the game.
“I think that’s a really important phase of the game for the players to understand, that was probably the worst part of the game for me, apart from the two goals, which were just moments.
“That was when we lost control. I do think the quality of performance dipped at that point and we did go away from our principles and that’s something we’ll have to clearly show the players and improve upon.
“But I thought at half-time we rectified that really. We got some clarity and some calmness back and in the second half it wasn’t an issue, there weren’t any issues at all in terms of the flow of the game, it was just two moments that cost us and obviously we were looking for more penetration from us in the final third.”
McKenna agreed it looked very much a game where the first goal would prove crucial “Massively. It was tight in the first half, in the second half I thought we took control but weren’t penetrating enough as much as we wanted. When you have a game like that, when you have the control of the game, concentration’s massive.
“I thought the game was there for us really, we were building pressure, we were starting to get some chances and that’s when you need to be at your most focused.
“I understand that you’re vulnerable when you have that momentum in the second half and we didn’t manage to stay concentrated and the first goal was massive and then we’re chasing the game a little bit. A mistake for the second goal and it’s hard to come back from there.”
When it was put to him that you’re always going to get days like that, McKenna said: “We don’t want too many of them. We don’t accept it, don’t say ‘It’s one of those things’. We don’t want to accept defeat, there are disappointed players down there, there’s disappointed staff.
“In reality, we know it’s not going to be all smooth sailing, we’ve said that over the last few weeks. Today is definitely a setback.
“If we’re clever and if we’re open, there’s a lot we can learn from the game to improve, and that’s what we’ll look to do over the next week and make sure we can rectify some things, make sure we put in a good performance against Accrington and next time we’re in a similar situation in terms of dominating a game, in my opinion in really good control on 60/70 minutes, we find a way to turn that loss into a win.”
Asked whether George Edmundson was gutted regarding his error which led to the second goal, McKenna added: “Everybody’s gutted. As I say, I didn’t think there were major problems with the mentality or the mindset today, the boys prepared well, their attitude was good in the game.
“We had a couple of little tactical issues at the end of the first half but apart from that I don’t think there were too many issues.
“Mistake for the goal, it’s something we’ll learn from, we certainly don’t chastise anyone for mistakes but at the same time we don’t shrug it off.
“We need to look at the situation, understand what can be done better and make sure in the same situation there are better decisions and better execution next time.”
Quizzed on whether Bolton presented the challenges he had anticipated going into the match, he said: “Yes, especially in the first half. They played a different system today, more of a back five and changed from what they have been doing over the last few weeks.
“That’s maybe in some ways a reflection to our positive performance last week and something we’ll probably encounter a little bit more.
“Tactically the set-up was probably a little bit different than we expected, but in the first half they looked to build up from the back, they looked to press us and do the things we expected them to do from a principle point of view.
“I thought it wasn’t really that that cost us the game in the end. I thought in the second half, we took control of the game, we pressed better, we built up better, we controlled the game, we got the ball around the edge of their box and in the end they scored off really two moments, two poor moments from our point of view.
“Like I said before, they’re a good team, they’ve brought in some good players over the last few weeks, which has improved them as well.
“But in terms of the football match, I thought we imposed ourselves pretty well in the game but they had their moments in the box and we didn’t.”
He added: “For sure it’s a bump in the road. It’ll be back to the training pitch. Again we have a good training week next week. We’ll watch the game back, we’ll sit down with the players to understand what we can do better at different parts of the game, especially at the end of the first half and how we lost control of the game at that moment.
“But also understand the times when we had the ball and we progressed up the pitch, why we didn’t create many chances than we would have wanted to.
“And then we need to understand the moments for the goals and a couple of other opportunities that they had.
“It’s very much about needing to watch the game, needing to speak with the players, all be open and understand what we can do better, put things on the training pitch and be ready for Accrington, which again is a different game, a different type of team, a different challenge.
“It’s about understanding what went wrong today and when we’re in a similar position again when we’re in that game state when we’re away from home, I thought at the moment when they scored the performance was improving and improving and we were growing into the game.
“We had to make sure we stay concentrated, we don’t concede and we keep building that pressure and eventually it probably should have been a game in which we got the first goal and went on to win.”
Bolton manager Ian Evatt was relieved to end a five-game losing streak.
“I think we have suffered for a long time now. We all wanted and needed that result today,” he said.
“I thought it was a really good game of football. They are a good team and are well-coached but our change in shape really helped us.
“I asked them before the game, whatever we do today do it as a unit. And we defended and attacked as a unit.
“These high-quality games are going to ebb and flow. The pleasing thing for me today was that we looked compact and solid when they had their moments and then eventually we took then chances when we got them. That was the difference.”
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