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McKenna Most Pleased With Response to Poor Start
Saturday, 22nd Jan 2022 18:38

Boss Kieran McKenna was pleased with the way his side responded to going behind following their 2-1 home victory over Accrington Stanley.

Wes Burns and Conor Chaplin netted the goals as Town claimed three points which take them to within eight of the play-offs, Ethan Hamilton having given the visitors the lead.

“Obviously it was a very difficult game, as we expected with Accrington, no quarter given,” McKenna said. “You can see why they’ve been on such a good run.

“A lot of pleasing things, probably the most pleasing was our response to a poor start. Obviously not pleased with how we started the game but it can happen.

“They got the momentum, they got two corners in the first minute and we got pinned in a little bit for the first 15 minutes and conceded, probably fairly enough on the balance of play.

“The most pleasing bit was how we responded to that. We spoke a lot about that after Bolton, how we were going to be in the difficult moments, having trust and belief in our football when everything’s going against us.

“I felt that we managed to do that. Getting the goal back quickly helped but I thought probably from the end of the first half to the first 30 or so of the second we played some really good football, created some good chances and were probably good value for two goals.”

He added: “They’re very good at what they do. They have so much height in their team to start with, they’re fantastic with second balls, put you under real pressure.

“They know all the tricks of the trade, they buy free-kicks well, they slow the game down, they load the box and we had a very small team today with Lee [Evans] dropping out in the warm-up, we lost more height with Conor [Chaplin] and Santi [Celina] coming in who aren’t those type of players.

“We had to scrap for it, it wasn’t easy but the players competed well and we managed to stay in it in a physical battle and thankfully some of the quality of the football came through for the goals and some of the other chances we had.”

McKenna was pleased to win a game which wasn’t always of the type the Blues would ideally want to play.

“Definitely,” he said. “It’s a difficult league, there’s no doubt about it. We can have our plan and prepare for how we want it to be but Accrington are very good at making the game the way they want it to be at times and probably the first 20 minutes was definitely the game they wanted it to be.

“It was in our half, it was set pieces, it was balls around our box for too long in the game. That was a challenge. The last 10 or 15 minutes ended up a little bit like that as well. We had to see off a little bit of pressure but nothing too major.

“So pleasing to come through, pleased with the chunks of the game in which we managed to make it how we wanted to make it and, as I say, at the end of the first half we were just starting to get to grips with it, start of the second half and up to the goal really we imposed ourselves, made it our type of game.

“But pleased to come through a game where you don’t have it all your own way, where you’re 1-0 down at home against a team that we really wanted to beat. To come through that was really important for the group, for their learning, for their development and obviously for the three points.”

Regarding the goals, he added: “We’ve got some really good options, I’ve said that all along. Conor and Bersant are two boys who have been itching to play, have been training well, so we thought it was important to give them an opportunity, great to see them both take it.

“Two different goals, a counter-attack goal and a good pass by Santi got us using that pace we have with Wes, it was a really good goal.

“The second goal came after a really good spell. What we wanted to do and what we spoke about at half-time was more passes in their half, control the game in their half more.

“I thought we did that at the start of the second half and that built pressure and led to a good final third goal, the second goal, good combinations and quick play on the sides, back in to Conor and he’s done well to switch it on to his right and get the finish off.”

On Celina’s ball through for Burns’s goal, he added: “A really good pass. Everyone knows about Santi, his quality and what he can do with the ball.

“The big things for me, what we’re working with him on and are trying to develop in him is stuff off the ball. His aggression, his work-rate, his running, his pressing, he’s definitely capable of it, he’s shown that today.

“He really put in a good shift for the team, that was important. We want him to be effective. We know he has lots of lots of talent with the ball and it’s about him channelling that into numbers, into good goals and assists.

“For him to get an assist today was really pleasing, for him to work how he did for the team was rally important for him and for the team, hopefully he can build on that performance and the contribution to the goal.”

Quizzed about the minute in which Accrington hit the bar and Town went straight up the other end and levelled, he added: “Big momentum, that was. A big save from Christian [Walton], I can’t remember the chance exactly but I remember it was not dissimilar to the goal. They put it in your box, they get around second balls and they get shots off quickly.

“Anything can happen and if you don’t have really good control of the ball, if you don’t manage to keep the ball in their half, they’re a very dangerous team.

“At that stage of the game, we weren’t managing to do that enough and that led to some action around our box that we didn’t want, but that’s why we’re grateful to have Christian, great to have a good goalkeeper. He obviously proved that in a good moment for us, we were alive to the second ball and we got the goal shortly afterwards. A big moment for us as a group.”

Asked about Evans’s injury, sustained in the warm-up, McKenna said: “A little groin issue, I’ve not had much time to get fully filled in by the medical team. Nothing too major, I think, but he wasn’t right to start the game.

“That’s always a difficult situation. That probably contributed to a bit of nerves and a bit of uncertainty at the start.

“Credit to Tom Carroll, not an easy situation come into and with the team not starting well as well, not easy for him, but he grew into the game, found his rhythm at the end of the first half and in the second half was growing in confidence and found his rhythm, so that was important to us, so credit to him for the way he stepped in at late notice.

“He did well. There’s no doubt about Tom’s quality as a player. He’s obviously had a difficult season with injuries and things like that. I said yesterday in my interview I felt like he’s been getting sharper in every training session in the last few weeks, he’s getting back to the levels I’ve seen before in training. Obviously bringing that into the match pitch is another challenge then.

“Again, it probably took him the same as the rest of the team, it wasn’t an easy start for us but once he found his rhythm, probably towards the end of the first half, he made us tick at the base of midfield.

“He got on the ball, linked it to Conor and Bersant, we found the little pockets that we wanted at the back of their midfield and played some good football and created some chances.”

McKenna admitted it was a significant win after last week’s 2-0 loss at Bolton: “It was an important win. I’m honestly not looking too much in terms of gaps and points and position but it was an important win for the momentum and the learning in the group.

“Obviously we had a setback last week, not a bad performance, but a setback in the result. We’ve spoken this week about different phases of the game and how we manage things, especially at times from a mental point of view.

“Just to have that win today when we were in a really difficult circumstance, 1-0 at home against a team who are making it really difficult for us.

“To come back from that and I think deserve the 2-1 with the performance we put in, I think that’s massive for the learning and the development of the group, and it means three points and that’s very important.”

Quizzed on the absence of Sone Aluko and Matt Penney, he added: “Sone, he and his partner had a child last night, so I’m delighted for him obviously, so he was down in London. Best wishes to him and we look forward to having him back in the group.

“Matt Penney’s had a little niggle so he wasn’t quite right for the game but hopefully will be available in the next few days.”

Tyreeq Bakinson made his debut from the bench having joined on loan from Bristol City on Thursday having been added to the 18 after Evans’s injury.

“We weren’t expecting to see him today,” McKenna continued. “He trained with the squad yesterday, managed to be in and around the game prep as much as he could. He was at the training ground with the boys to keep them around it, he was in the meetings and in and around the dressing room.

“We wanted him to come down and be in and around the dressing room to get a feel for the boys, so thankfully he was there when the injury came

“He was really keen and willing, ‘I’m available, I want to come on the pitch’. That was good, he had no hesitation about coming on.

“It was important to have him, we didn’t have lots of midfield cover on the bench when Tom started, we felt like we needed a good 20 minutes out of him and we got that, and it gets him up and running. That’s a positive for him and a positive for us.”

Town next visit AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday evening, which McKenna says he’s looking forward to: “It’s nice to have a Saturday-Tuesday, I’ve been looking forward to that. It’s been great to have the training time, full weeks and stuff like that but we also want to get in the rhythm of the game.

“We have a strong squad, we’ve worked a lot on the training pitch, we want the momentum of playing games now back to back.

“It’s a challenge, Saturday-Tuesday when you’re away from home, it comes around quickly, but we feel we’re ready for that, we want that and we’ll rest well, prepare as well as we can and be ready for another really tough game.”

Accrington manager John Coleman felt the points could have gone to either side.

“I thought it was a good game and could have gone either way,” he told the Lancashire Telegraph.

“I think the turning point was that 30 seconds where we hit the underside of the bar and looked all the world we were going 2-0 up and 30 seconds later the ball’s in our net.

“A good part of the game we were on top particularly in the first half, Ipswich came on stronger the second half.

“We came to try and win the game and I would have been disappointed with a draw, to be honest, having taken the lead and having had chances to go further in front.

“We’re competing in this league and that game could have gone either way and if we keep playing like that, we will win more than we don’t.”

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Saxonblue74 added 18:51 - Jan 22
Always a good interview, gives a bit of an insight. Is it just my interpretation or is he suggesting Celina doesn't put in enough of a shift?🤔

BiGDonnie added 18:51 - Jan 22
Smashed it! COYBs

ringwoodblue added 18:54 - Jan 22
I used to find our manager’s post-match interviews extremely annoying, frustrating and completely out-of-touch but I love reading what McKenna has to say and particularly the way he says it.

Cakeman added 19:39 - Jan 22
Excellent summary from our manager. He really does give a refreshingly good deal of meaningful comments and presents them in a good manner.
A breath of fresh air to be honest as previous incumbents have tended to sound more like politicians.

barrystedmunds added 20:13 - Jan 22
And so complementary of Stanley’s unique “ playing” style!

brassy added 20:34 - Jan 22
a breath of fresh air flowing through our club so pleasing coybs

TimmyH added 21:01 - Jan 22
Nice to see a manager for us change the tide of a game at halftime (somewhat)...something Cook, Lambert or Hurst couldn't do in general. Of course Hurst had the opportunity in practically every game he managed but failed.

bluesman added 21:28 - Jan 22
It was a good win. Accrington came for a fight and we did well to win by playing football. Ref was really awful, lost control of the game at times

Bazza8564 added 07:25 - Jan 23
Another good honest assessment.

The takeaways from me on these interviews are always different, this one is the positivity of saturday-Tuesday scheduling something Cook always seemed to be negative about.

I take huge heart from this one, let’s face it AS are a rugby team with the wrong shaped ball, and beating sides like this is critical but bloody tough. 9 points from 12 is no mean feat, we have to play with high intensity again tuesday. Win that one, it’s not looking beyond us…..

Jonaldo added 07:40 - Jan 23
Good assessment from both Managers.

Thought they played to their strengths and that we eventually showed enough composure and quality to win.

One big plus for me is that Tyreeq, looked physical, technical and very mobile when he came on. Without wanting to big him up too much, he had a little bit of a Vierra-like swagger about him.

bluewarrior added 09:20 - Jan 23
I think Woolfie deserves some credit. His display was nigh on flawless and his general reading of the game was excellent. Most importantly his concentration levels have improved so notably since K McK was been coaching him. Obviously he’s always been a talented player but the improvement over recent weeks is outstanding. Hopefully more people will understand why the donkey Nsiala was never going to play under this manager!

Orraman added 11:40 - Jan 23
What a difference in post match comments. Never afraid to praise a player who has done something well which is something Cook would never do. No repetitive football cliches and for the first time since pre- McCarthy actually uses player’s proper names rather than a string of nicknames

norfolkbluey added 15:18 - Jan 23
I don't enjoy terms like donkey being bandied about. Nsiala may not have had the skills we know Woolfie has but he's gone now so lets dwell on the here and now. McK has given all the supporters hope of a really better future and that is obvious in the way the team is developing and maturing together. It is so refreshing after years of disappointment. We may not get to the play offs but saying that there is a genuine change in the atmosphere and there is still time to make it happen. It just depends on how the present top 8 play. Good luck to all the lads on Tuesday night COYB

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