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McKenna: I Enjoyed Watching Us Play
Tuesday, 8th Feb 2022 23:19

Town boss Kieran McKenna said he really enjoyed watching his side as the Blues defeated bottom club Doncaster Rovers 1-0 at the Eco-Power Stadium.

Tyreeq Bakinson’s first goal for the club saw the Blues to the win but having dominated throughout the margin of victory really ought to have been more comfortable.

“A really good performance,” McKenna said. “I enjoyed watching us play. I thought we had good control of the game in the first half. Took the ball really well but we had that extra bit of penetration and thrust to our game.

“I thought our movement off the ball was really good, found spaces behind the midfield, we ran down the sides of them. We had a threat in the box with crosses, we had more bodies in the box, more service to the striker.

“Our counter-pressure was good, we didn’t allow them to play or build into our half at all in the first half.

“Lots of pleasing bits of our performance, obviously the main thing we could have improved upon tonight was to get the second goal. If we’d got the second goal, there was every chance we would have gone on and got three and four.

“But when you don’t get that second goal, there’s always a chance that something can happen at the end. There were a couple of balls in our box that might have ricocheted the wrong way on another night.

“Really pleasing performance. Pleasing with the goal, pleasing with how we defended and just being that clinical to kill the game off a bit earlier would be nice.”

The Northern Irishman was happy to see Bakinson pop up on the edge of the six-yard box to add the final touch after Macauley Bonne’s header had been saved.

“He’s capable of both roles really,” McKenna reflected. “He’s capable of sitting a little bit deeper and building up the play for us.

“This is the first time he’s played in there with Lee Evans, who is obviously really good at that role. Lee gives us that control and that experience and that positioning in the middle of the pitch to play through him.

“So we gave Tyreeq that license tonight to run off more, to be able to get beyond their midfield and make it into the box, and he’s shown throughout his young career to date that he’s able to chip in with a goal.

“Nice for him to get into that position. Macauley was unlucky with the first header, but nice to have that extra body in the box to be able to finish it off.”

Town have beaten two sides in the relegation places over the last few days and McKenna was asked whether he was pleased that his side was able to cope with the level of expectation.

“I think we just take it one game at a time, to be honest,” he responded. “Gillingham were second-bottom of the league but they came off of a win and I think they won again tonight, and I knew watching them that it was going to be a difficult game.

“Doncaster went to Sunderland on Saturday and put in a really good performance, not just a good result but were 2-0 up and could have been three or four-nil up with how they counter-attacked.

“It’s not so much looking at the league position in this league at times in this division, some of the teams are so different, the styles of play are different.

“Doncaster have a lot of young players, some pacy forwards and are a really good team on the counter-attack, which they did well against Sunderland on Saturday.

“So we knew that was going to be a big part of today - controlling the ball, getting the positioning right, not giving them too many counter-attacks and I think we managed to do that I don’t think they had a pure counter-attack in the whole game.

“We don’t worry too much about positions of teams. I’ve said all along that it’s game by game, let’s try and win the next game, respect each opponent and thankfully we did that tonight.”

McKenna again made changes, on this occasion three, and was asked whether he is still looking for his best XI or whether such a thing doesn’t exist.

“I think with the options we have up the pitch, I don’t think there’s such a thing for us at the moment,” he considered.

“We’ve got a nice consistent base at the back at the moment with the players who are playing in the backline and our wing-backs, there has been a little bit more consistency.

“Having said that, we’ve got people like Cam Burgess training and training fantastic, a good player at this level, an experienced player ready to step in when we need him.

“We’ve been consistent in the back half of the pitch. We’ve had issues in midfield which has forced us to rotate, but we’ve got good options and it’s given me a good chance to have a look at different players.

“We’ve missed our captain [Sam Morsy], who is a massive player for us, for four games and managed to win three of them, which is pleasing, and in the front half of the pitch we’ve got really good options.

“It’s one of the advantages we have in the division is that the depth of our squad is strong and it’s something I want to use.

“It’s different profiles for different games. Sometimes we’ve felt like two strikers a bit closer together was the best way. Sometimes split strikers down the sides of the centre-backs has been what we’ve felt is the best way and sometimes, like tonight, we’ve used players in number 10 positions between the lines to play off a central striker.

“It’s nice to have those options tactically, it’s nice to have the personnel, who can play in different ways, and it probably makes us harder to play and prepare against and enables us to look at these games as they come and think in what way we can use the resources at our disposal the best.”

Joe Pigott missed out on a place in the 18 having started against Gillingham but McKenna says that was no reflection on the former AFC Wimbledon man’s performance.

“No, absolutely not,” he insisted. “It’s just that way at the moment, you can only have 16 outfielders in the squad.

“Sometimes we’ve got away with having the four strikers in the squad, other times we’ve felt we can only have three and we need a bit of extra cover on the bench.

“We had a couple of boys with niggles going into the night, so we only travelled with the three strikers.

“I spoke to Joe, his performance on Saturday we thought was positive for him coming back into the team, all strikers are reliant on good service and he didn’t always get that on Saturday but he gave good things to the team.

“Like I’ve said, everyone’s going to be important, sometimes people are going to miss out on a squad for a game or two because of the depth of numbers that we have but he’s going to be an important player for the rest of the season.”

The Blues are next in action against the MK Dons on Saturday, with more than 7,000 fans set to make the trip, a tougher prospect than Rovers with the Buckinghamshire sitting in third despite having drawn 1-1 at Fleetwood this evening.

“Looking forward to it, like we do every game,” McKenna said. “Milton Keynes, I’ve seen quite a bit of them already, a very good footballing team, good style of play, going well in the league.

“And we know there’s a big travelling fanbase going there as well. I think everyone’s excited by the numbers and how that represents the club and how it shows the scale of the fanbase here.

“It sets it up for a good game. I think whoever we played on Saturday we’d be looking forward to it, but Milton Keynes we’re expecting a tough game, a good game and a good support and we hope to go there and do well.”

Town made more than 600 passes in the game as they recorded their fifth clean sheet in the eight games since McKenna has been at the club.

“The team sheets are going to be important for us,” he said. “It’s definitely not from lots of defending as a team and letting the opposition have the ball. It’s important for us that if we have the ball we control the game in their half of the pitch if possible, then we’re going to be better defensively.

“I think tonight’s a good example. We knew Doncaster went to Sunderland on Saturday and put in a really, really good counter-attacking performance and it was going to be really important to keep the ball, control the game, get our positionings right so that when we lost it we were always there to press or to win it back, and we managed to do that.

“The defensive record’s important but, for me, clean sheets are about how well we’re connected as a team. On the ball, off the ball, set plays, counter-attacks, all of those things.

“And we’ve managed to do that pretty well over the last seven weeks, but we can still improve.”

McKenna’s former Manchester United colleagues Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Michael Carrick were at the game and the Blues boss was pleased to see them.

“Lovely, two fantastic football men, two Champions League winners, but two good friends and two Ipswich Town fans now,” he said.

“They’ve been following all the games on iFollow and I think they’re hoping to come down to Portman Road at some point as well.

“Nice of them, they came over to the hotel this afternoon, met some of the players and the staff. It was nice of them to make the journey and I really appreciate it.”

McKenna says he calls the pair up to bounce ideas back and forth. “Yes, just in general,” he said. “They’re two colleagues but two friends as well, two people I’ve worked closely with and enjoyed working with, and two friends.

“We’re in contact, speak about football but speak about other things as well. They’re very supportive of me, and [assistant boss] Martyn [Pert] as well, of course. We all have a good relationship. And, as I say, two new fans for Ipswich Town, which is nice.”

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OwainG1992 added 23:25 - Feb 8
I read everything McKenna says and smile at most of if it find myself nodding.
Such a bright young manager.

Gforce added 23:30 - Feb 8
Another refreshingly honest assessment of a solid team performance.
Hopefully we can follow it up with another good performance on Saturday,.

N2_Blue added 23:31 - Feb 8
McKenna's at the wheel!

This guy is a breathe of fresh air. Not just the results which have been fantastic, but what he says and how he analyses everything and sets up for the the opposition. This is a proper football man, not a scouse 'want to be one of the lads' type.

dangerous30 added 23:45 - Feb 8
I love reading his comments after games such a refreshing change 😃

Mariner1974 added 00:04 - Feb 9
What a change after the foghorn that was Paul Cook. I think Ashton and co, had had enough of listening to his racket as much as we had. The day we appointed Paul Cook, I thought was a dark day for a football club, a lower league buffoon. Yes he had experience of the lower leagues, but McKenna comes across solid and studious. Thoughtful and focused. He's working with what he's got at his disposal, but using his brain, experience and aptitude to take us forward.

Sospiri added 04:57 - Feb 9
Yup. I like McKenna's modest honesty and intelligence.He clearly has a smart football brain. These young men are the way of the future.

Unhinged_dynamo added 05:55 - Feb 9
I love the comments above and agree with all of them, it’s also nice to see ole and carrick supporting kmk, any advice from a manager who recently finished 2nd in the prem is no doubt useful. Could we not ask carrick to do a little bit of dead ball delivery training?

ArnieM added 07:03 - Feb 9
I must be expecting something different from us then. I thought once again we looked slow, one paced , with frustrating tippy tappy possession football mainly in and around our half. Whilst I say that you can not fault the fabulous record Town have racked up over the last 8 games. Promotion form in anyones book. Does our style and approach get you out of your seat ? I’d say not. Maybe the acid test will be against a much better team in Saturday- here’s hoping we can deal with their inevitable high pressing game.

oldtimer3 added 07:21 - Feb 9
What a great statement by our new up and coming manager. So well respected by the not so long ago one of the best managers in the prem.


Saxonblue74 added 07:22 - Feb 9
Love his demeanour, and really pleased with his points return so far. He's the expert and this is just my opinion, I really don't think we were that good last night! That was the worst opposition we'll face all season and although we never looked like losing the game there were times we didn't look like winning it either! Wolfenden and Edmundson looked far from assured and will be ripped to shreds on Saturday if they don't up their game. Bonne needs to find his shooting boots, too many gilt edged chances squandered. Celina was bright but shot shy. Chaplin also bright. Apart from that? Not much. Like I said results give me faith in KmK, but is it really that complicated tactically to get out of this league? Are the teams at the top changing players, tactics and formation every week? Are our players good enough to deal with that? For me, despite back to back wins there's not been much to shout about. Cue the down votes!!

BlueandTruesince82 added 08:26 - Feb 9
I do like the way Kenny talks.

How long have we been saying we need to adjust our style for certain teams instead of being so rigid (probably as long as we we've been saying we need an identity and let other teams worry about us TBF).

I like the tactical fluidity, the fact that players know not being in the side isn't always a negative, that they will get chances, right players for right games.

I can't remember who said it but one an ex player once said about SAF the reason he was such a good manager is he'd come to you when you'd been out of the side a couple of games and say "I know you've not played for a few games but in a couple of weeks against XXXXXX I'm going to really need you for that, keep it up in training as I have plan for you that week" (something like that anyway)

Does feel like there is a touch of that with Kenny

NthQldITFC added 08:42 - Feb 9
You can really see the qualities that McKenna is instilling into his team already. We don't do it for 90 minutes yet, but some of the passing and movement at times last night was really excellent. This setup feels totally right to me, hopefully the start of an Ipswich renaissance. COYB.

ringwoodblue added 08:49 - Feb 9
For the first time in years I feel that win, lose or draw, we have the right men in charge at the club and we are moving in the direction we want to go.

Agreed the last two games have been unconvincing but I don’t see Rotherham, who are the league leaders, winning any more convincingly at the moment. A little more quality from Bonne last night and we would have been 3 or 4 up so it’s very fine margins.

We are just about holding on to the coattails of the chasing pack so if we can avoid defeat at MKD on Sat, we will still be in with a shout although I note under McK we don’t draw games so I’ll take a win :)

Bazza8564 added 09:01 - Feb 9
That for me was the most comfortable win for ages. We controlled the game, had 70% of the ball or thereabouts and once ahead, the margin was the only question.
I would have really liked to see Pigott in that formation though, Bonne struggles with his back to goal and with two in the hole behind him, you need a link up man.
Winning is a habit, 6/8 is excellent and we mustn't dismiss the fact that after MK on Saturday, KM will have played 6 out of 9 away from home.
The fixtures ahead look accommodating too for the next few weeks, and sooner or later some of these teams above us will have games against each other.
Im still believing.....

johnwarksshorts added 09:01 - Feb 9
You can't always win pretty. We controlled the game which is pleasing, however we need to take our chances, both Bonne and Nors guilty of missing great opportunities in front of goal. McK is a breath of fresh air compared to PC, for a young man in his first managerial role he is first class. Bring on MK.

itfcserbia added 09:09 - Feb 9
ArnieM I agree with what you say like 90% of the time. But last night I think we watched a different game. We literally spent almost the entire game in Donny's half. It wasn't a great match but we don't yet have a settled midfield (I am still not impressed by Bakinson and think Harper could have offered just as much but hey). That being said, if our strikers had demonstrated some better finishing we would have won by 3 or 4 goals.

Tractorboy58 added 09:17 - Feb 9
It was a good performance, with players showing their quality and ability in passing and retaining posession, we just need a little more thrust and direct play in the attacking third to make the most of our ability as a team. Our manager is the real deal ..COYB

Bert added 09:22 - Feb 9
As always, a precise analysis of the game. True, it was not the most entertaining but the passing was good, the tempo up a notch and we created much more than on Saturday. We would all have liked to see more goals against two struggling teams but finding a way through a packed defence is not easy.
Results went for us last night soSaturday is another massive game.

BobbyBell added 10:04 - Feb 9
I think our tactics on the night were exactly right. If we had played expansive risk taking football then we would have allowed Donny to counter attack and as KMK said they did that really well at Sunderland. So we played tight and kept possession and it worked. This manager is about tactics and he knows his stuff. Had we have gone 2 or 3 goals up then I'm sure the message would have come onto the pitch to loosen up and enjoy themselves but we didn't get the second and we saw the game out professionally.

blues1 added 11:38 - Feb 9
Arnie M. How do u work out that almost all of our passing was in our own half . Read the stats and you'll see that it was almost 50/50.

TimmyH added 11:47 - Feb 9
Lets be honest 'a really good performance' is questionable, we didn't really have to get out of 2nd gear against a poor Donny side and the finishing and corners seriously need working on. He's done well since he's been here and not having a go at him but some of the performances are unconvincing to me.

ChrisFelix added 12:37 - Feb 9
we play some attractive & positive football. Sadly let down by the lack of a striker with that killer instinct.
I have been saying for weeks that Bonne is overhyped, but that miss by Norwood was terrible.
The former had a great start helped by his local connection. But we do need to sort this striker problem out before we reach the crunch games of the season

Razor added 13:37 - Feb 9
Having a decent striker would make it a lot easier,Bonne missed two simple headers and as for that Nozza miss at the end----pathetic.

Woolfie must suffer from sleep depravation cos he falls asleep 4 or 5 times a game and makes stupid errors, luckily he is getting away with them at the moment.

Celina must play every game if possible and please stop mucking him about----the guy is quality and is needed on the pitch.

Looking forward to Saturday---3 points there and with 2 home games to follow----could set us up nicely.


grinch added 17:06 - Feb 9
Have to agree with ArnieM it was a performance devoid of inspiration from midfield. The 2 central midfielders lost the ball on so many occasions and wolfy had worse game for along time Donacien was solid in defence and gave good attacking option MOM imo Walton strong and so was edmundson wing backs gave little. Celib
no was good at times aluko looked good when he came on

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