McKenna: I'd Say We Shaded It
Saturday, 12th Feb 2022 18:28
Town boss Kieran McKenna felt the Blues just about shaded their 0-0 away draw against League One’s third-placed club MK Dons.
McKenna thought his side had the better of the second half in particular, the first having been more balanced.
“I think I’d say we shaded but I don’t know whether [MK manager] Liam [Manning] would say differently.
“I thought the first half was even-stevens. I thought they started the game probably better than us, gave us a few different little tactical issues in the first 15 minutes that we had to try and solve on the pitch.
“I thought after the first 15 minutes we got on top of that pretty well. I thought we probably had the next 15, 20 minutes of the game, had some really good chances and then they finished off the second half really strongly.
“First half was pretty much even-stevens, two good teams trying to impose their style but I thought in the second half we went through the gears a little bit with our performance level.
“I thought we took control of the large majority of the second half, we built some good pressure, dominated the ball, had most of it in their half and had some decent opportunities.
“I thought it was two good teams, a point we can’t cry about. I thought we probably shaded it in terms of chances and the better chances in the game and I think we would have just deserved to have nicked that one.”
Was it the game he had anticipated beforehand? “Yes, in fairness both teams try and impose their style of play. Good technical players on the pitch. Both teams had their spell, especially in the first half, it really was a spell for them, then a spell for us.
“It was the type of game that we expected. The pitch, and I’m sure they’ll say the same, doesn’t really suit either team, so it made it a challenge to be quite as free-flowing with one-touch football as I think we’d be able to put on on a better surface.
“But that’s the same for both teams, both teams tried their best and I thought it was a good advert for the technical and tactical level of the league.”
The Northern Irishman was pleased with the Blues’ third clean sheet in a row and their sixth in nine since he took charge.
“It’s important,” he continued. “I thought our organisation was good. We had 10 or 15 minutes with a few issues, but after that not many and their only chances really were one or two on the break and some balls in the box at the end.
“I think the organisation was good from front to back. We want to score goals, normally we’d expect to score goals. I thought today we were value for at least a goal but it didn’t come. If it doesn’t come, then make sure you don’t concede and take a point.”
Unlike previous Town sides McKenna’s team has shown no signs of conceding in the latter stages of matches.
“I think when you’ve seen some games out it gives you that extra bit of confidence,” he reflected. “I don’t feel under panic at the moment. There are a few little things we’re doing with the backline that help that.
“I think we have a very good goalkeeper on crosses when people are trying to load up the box, that gives everyone confidence as well.
“We want the games to be decided before the last five minutes but if it comes to that, I think the confidence is growing that we do the right thing, stay organised, stay concentrated and we can get clean sheets.”
“We wanted to win,” he added. “We said from the start when we came in we’re not too interested in draws. In the position we’re in we want to go and try and win games and if we lose a couple along the way then so be it.
“I think we threw everything we could at it really. Macauley [Bonne] and Nors [James Norwood] coming on, we had a few good chances in and around both of them which we weren’t able to capitalise on.
“I thought we didn’t play the last 10 minutes particularly well, I thought we forced a few things centrally when really we should have worked the wide areas and crossed it a bit more.
“But the players will learn from that. We’ll look at that and we wanted the win, we weren’t happy with 0-0, I think we tried everything that we could to get that in terms of personnel and it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Quizzed on why he handed Kayden Jackson a surprise start as the lone central striker, the Blues manager said: “I think it was clear from his performance really. I think he gives us different attributes from all our other forwards.
“I think his ability to press from the front, I think all of our forwards work hard without the ball but I think he’s really unique in his ability to do that.
“I thought he gave us a really good foothold in terms of his pressure on their centre-halves and goalkeeper. We knew it was going to be important to have a threat in behind to stretch their line, to create a little bit more space for Celina and Chaplin.
“I thought he did that, there were times when he made good runs and didn’t get it, but he gave us space for the 10s and then obviously he got through on goal a couple of times himself with really good movement.
“His movement behind was really good and the other thing was the transition threat. We felt that was something that we haven’t had in a couple of games away from home. We really wanted to have that today.
“We knew that MK would open the pitch up and that we’d get some regains and I thought we had a counter threat all game really with Wes [Burns] and Jacko in particular with their pace, and with Santi [Celina] and Conor [Chaplin] and Sam [Morsy] driving from deep.
“We wanted the threat behind, we wanted the counter threat and we wanted his work off the ball and I thought he put in a really good performance, had a couple of good chances that he made for himself from good movement and he is going to be an important player for us.”
McKenna was pleased to have skipper Morsy back after his four-game ban: “It was, important for him. It was a high level game so we needed him, he makes a difference for us.
“He gives us that extra dimension in terms that he’s definitely the most capable of driving through the pitch, taking the ball in deep areas and running through the pitch. It gives us that extra attacking threat, that extra bit of thrust.
“He gave us that today. He showed his competitiveness and his leadership on the pitch. Disappointed in the yellow card at the end, I don’t think he hardly made a tackle in the game, so for me it seems to be that as soon as he makes a foul he gets a yellow card, which I don’t quite understand. I thought there were worse challenges in the game.
“A bit disappointed with that but happy with his performance and happy to have him back.”
Does he believe the Egypt international is a marked man with referees? “I’m not sure, I’ve not seen enough but I know he’s obviously got a high yellow card count. I know he’s very competitive, wants to win, but everything I’ve seen from him, he plays fair.
“So, I think it seems to be, from my very brief experience at the moment, that he’s quick to get punished for things that aren’t quite such a big issue.
“He’s going to have to manage himself, he’s going to have to manage his discipline on the pitch but we want him to stay as competitive as he is.”
Up to today, Town had had a pattern of following two wins with a defeat. Is he happy to have broken that habit with a draw?
“I wouldn’t have taken it, I wouldn’t have taken it all through the game,” he insisted. “We wanted to win, I wouldn’t have taken a point. Our mindset from the start has been to go and try and win games.
“In terms of the pattern of win, win, loss, that’s not a big one for me. I guess what I will take is that I thought the performance level went up a notch from the two games that we haven’t won, the Bolton game and the Sheffield Wednesday game.
“I thought neither of them were bad performances, both of them we had good control, played some good football, but we didn’t have a threat as much as what we’d want in those games and we didn’t manage to keep a clean sheet.
“I think we take the positives. Today I thought we had more threat in the game, we had more threat in the transition, more threat in behind, had more chances than in those games and we managed to find the extra concentration levels to keep the clean sheet.
“I think we take the improvement in the performances from those games and we’ll try and put that in place for the rest of the season.”
McKenna praised the 6,850 travelling support, probably the largest league away following in the club’s history and the most in the EFL this season. The attendance of 15,311 is MK's largest crowd of the season by more than 4,000.
“Honestly it was humbling, McKenna said. “It was humbling to see, humbling to be part of, humbling to represent the club with such an amazing fanbase, the highest fanbase of any game in the EFL this year.
“I thought it was incredible. Not just the numbers. We knew there was going to be 7,000 but the atmosphere, the noise, the way they supported the team, the way it was stacked out with them all being behind one goal it felt like we had half the stadium. It didn’t feel like we had one end, it felt like we had half the stadium.
“Incredible. It gave us a really good boost in the second half. I knew as I’d seen that we were playing that way in the second half I felt like we would go up a notch, it would give us that extra momentum.
“I thought we managed to get really good pressure around their goal in the second half, just sorry we weren’t able to get the result, sorry that we weren’t able to get the goal at that end that probably the fanbase deserved.
“I think the performance in the second half deserved it and certainly the supporters deserved it for coming out and following us like that and we really appreciate it and all we can say is that we’ll keep working every day to keep improving the club, keep improving the team and hopefully deliver success over the next few years.”
Town, still ninth but five points from the play-offs, now have home games Burton and Cheltenham.
“It definitely sets up the next two, not in terms of us thinking about winnable games or teams that we’re ahead of, just in terms of two home games,” McKenna said. “Our home record’s been good.
“Two teams who will give a different challenge. Every team in this league is different. A completely different game again today against MK from what we had against Accrington two weeks ago.
“Each team gives its challenges, teams play in their own styles, the styles at times are very different.
“So we’ll prepare now for two home games. We know that brings a big challenge, teams are going to come to Portman Road and give us a lot of respect at times, try and make it difficult for us and we’ll have to be mentally ready for that.
“Glad to have the training week now. Good to have had three games over the last week and to get some more players involved in the action, but nice to have a training week now and then ready for Saturday-Tuesday at home.”
MK boss Liam Manning felt his side just about had the better of the chances.
“It was a terrific advert for League One,” he told the MK Citizen. “It might not have had the goals but it had a bit of everything. Credit to the guys and how hard they worked, the intensity they showed.
“Ipswich are a good side, Kieran has done a good job setting them up like that. We pressed well, blocked well when we had to, we built well and went long well at times. It was a really tough game.
“It was just the final bit - the quality of the final touch, that final pass. But we didn't give them too many chances either. Twiney [Scott Twine] came close at the end, Hiram [Boateng] had a half-decent chance as well but it's a really good point for us.
“We just about shaded it in terms of chances but it was such a close game and I don't think we're going away from it thinking we should have won. It was a hard-earned point.”
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