|AFC Wimbledon 0 v 2 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Tuesday, 25th January 2022 Kick-off 19:45
McKenna: Not Perfect, But Plenty of Positives
Tuesday, 25th Jan 2022 23:15
Town boss Kieran McKenna felt the Blues’ performance as they won 2-0 away at AFC Wimbledon was a mixed bag, not perfect but with plenty of positives.
Second-half goals from Wes Burns saw McKenna’s side to their fourth win in his five matches in charge.
“A mixed bag, probably two different halves in some ways,” he said afterwards. “I thought in the first half we controlled the ball well, we had lots of possession, lots of possession just inside their half.
“Switched the play well but we didn’t have enough threat. We didn’t manage to get enough bodies high up the pitch and enough runners beyond their defence. We didn’t create as many chances as we would have liked.
“In the second half, we had a little change in terms of our shape, we had more penetration, we got down the side of the box more, we got good balls flashed across the face of the goal.
“We carried a little bit more of a threat, but we also lost control a little bit, which we hadn’t done in the first half. There was definitely a 10 or 15-minute spell where we lost control of the game, obviously away from home the crowd play a factor in that. We had a 10 or 15-minute spell where they had a couple of opportunities, obviously the set piece was a big one.
“Not perfect, but plenty of positives, things to improve. But two games in a short space of time, Saturday-Tuesday, to pick up six points, to come away from home and get a clean sheet, to be able to use different members of the squad across the two games and get more people involved and up to speed with the team is important.
“We’ll take the positives, massive game now on Saturday [at Sheffield Wednesday], so we’ll recover and get ready for that.”
As well as having to replace suspended skipper Sam Morsy with new signing Tyreeq Bakinson, McKenna made three changes to his attacking players with James Norwood, Sone Aluko and Kayden Jackson all starting, while Macauley Bonne, Bersant Celina and Conor Chaplin dropped to the bench.
“We have a deep squad, we have quality in the squad and we have to use it,” McKenna explained. “There are a lot of games to play, we’re going to need everyone on board and everybody fit and available at different times in the season.
“We decided to change the whole front three from Saturday. Obviously Nors has been in a good vein of form, Sone’s coming back from his couple of days off and Kayden Jackson’s been fantastic in training, has made a really big impression and we thought he deserved a chance.
“I thought it’s a positive to have those options, to make the changes, to get another win, it keeps the pot bubbling, it keeps everybody competing for places and leaves us in a good area in terms of depth, especially in those front positions.”
It was right wing-back Burns who was Town’s match-winner, netting his seventh and eight goals of the campaign.
“He’s in a good vein of form,” the Northern Irishman continued. “Obviously he had his hamstring injury just before I arrived but he’s come back, looks fit, looks strong.
“The position is one he enjoys and suits him. He’s doing some good work in both areas of the pitch.
“I think the team’s using him well, I think he would say that. He’s received a couple of really good passes for his goals. He’s fitting well into the team, he’s working well for the team and long may it continue.”
The one blot on the evening was Kane Vincent-Young’s late red card for a second bookable offence, which means the former Colchester man will be banned for the trip to Hillsborough.
“We have a couple of options,” McKenna reflected. “Matt Penney’s not far away, Hayden Coulson’s back in training. I think we’re not too bad. That’s the benefit of having a good squad.
“Disappointed for Kane, I thought it was harsh, but we can’t change that now and we’ll be ready for Saturday.”
Might Kyle Edwards be another option? “Yes, we think he can do wing-back. He’s done that before at West Brom, he played some games early there when he broke through at West Brom. He’s trained in that position in training as well, so that’s an option.
“Kyle’s a versatile player, we haven’t been able to get him on the pitch in the last few games but he’s an important player for us.
‘Whatever position and whatever game he ends up coming into we know he’s ready to contribute to the team.”
Regarding Lee Evans, who picked up a groin problem in the warm-up on Saturday, the Blues manager added: “We have to check on Lee, it’s not a major issue but he’s not training with the group yet, so we’ll have to see how he is over the next few days.”
McKenna says he believes skipper Morsy has hard done by regarding his four-game ban: “Very disappointed really. I saw the incident live and I trust my eyes on that one. I know you can slow things down on video and make it look differently.
“But I saw it live from a couple of yards away, as did the fourth official. To my eyes it was nothing malicious, nothing dangerous, I thought he tried to move past his marker, he got a tug on his arm and he threw his arm out to shake free of his marker and he caught him on the neck.
“No danger, no malice, no intention. So, we were disappointed, I think it’s extremely harsh. Disappointed for Sam, he’s a very important player for us, a very important leader, but we can’t change it now.
“The two boys who came in tonight did well. As I say, we have options throughout the squad. We’ll be fine, we’ll prepare well for the games. Of course we’ll miss Sam, but we have other players ready to step in and do a job.”
Asked whether he was surprised that the process took place on the day of a game and whether it hampered Town’s preparations, McKenna said: “The process is, I think, pretty normal for the FA. To be honest, we knew that was going to be the process, we knew the hearing was this morning, so we were prepared for that. Obviously we were very disappointed with the outcome.
“Not ideal on a matchday but it was something we were fully aware of, we prepared, we brought some extra cover in the squad because we knew that once it goes to that level, once the official charge comes in, it’s likely that it’s already a long way decided, to be honest. We knew there was a chance we’d lost Sam for the night and we were prepared for that.”
Town recalled Tyreece Simpson from his loan spell at Swindon over the weekend, which McKenna says is to discuss his contractual situation with the striker’s current terms up at the end of the season although with the club having an option for a further season.
“That’s an issue with the club, something they’re just getting sorted out, a contractual issue that’s being sorted out between Tyreece and the club,” McKenna said.
“It wasn’t part of my decision at the moment to bring him back into the group. Obviously he’s a player that we value very, very highly, we’ve been keeping really close tabs on what he’s being doing at Swindon. Really pleased with his progress.
“I got to meet him yesterday for the first time. A lovely kid and we want him to be a part of the future and a part of what we’re doing here.”
McKenna says it’s likely the 19-year-old, who netted 11 goals while with the Robins, will be sent out for another spell.
“That’s an option, yes,” he said. “There are discussions at the moment between himself and the club, hopefully that will get resolved over the next few days and we’ll sit down with Tyreece and decide what’s best for him for the rest of the season.”
Keeper Vaclav Hladky has been absent from the bench for the last two games and McKenna confirmed he has been unwell over recent days.
Asked whether he could have asked for a better start to his management career than four wins from five, McKenna smiled: “Five wins would be better! Look, I’ve got high standards for the group, I told them that from the start.
“It’s about getting better, it’s about performances, there were bits of the performance that were good, there were bits I wasn’t happy with, I told them that after the game.
“Obviously winning is the most important thing, it’s great to come here tonight and win but we can’t rest on our laurels, we need to keep improving, it’s going to be a big, big game on Saturday. We want to make it five wins out of six and that will be the goal now.
“It’ll be next game at a time, it’s not time to look back on records on what we’ve done in the first few games, it’s about the next game.”
Asked whether there are any further additions close with the transfer window closing on Monday, McKenna added: “There are still one or two that we’re speaking to. Not impossible that there’ll be an addition before the end of January.
“As I’ve said, we’re comfortable with what we have, I think we have a good squad, we have cover in most positions, but it’s been the same all January, if we can find that extra little bit of quality or extra little bit of something different in the squad we’ll look to do it and that’s something we’re still looking to do over the next few days.”
Wimbledon head coach thought there was little in the match and his side were in the ascendency until Town scored their first goal.
“I felt that we were harshly beaten,” he told his club's official website. “In the first half I felt we started well, and we started brightly. They got on top, but our shape was good, and they didn’t really cause us any problems. We weren’t good enough on the ball.
“At half-time we said we’ve got to be braver, we’ve got to carry more threat and I felt we did that. There was nothing in it, we were on top up until the first goal.”
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