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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.”

McKenna was still making attacking changes at the end with Sone Aluko replacing Tyreeq Bakinson in the final scheduled minute.

“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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IpswichT62OldBoy added 18:43 - Feb 12
He continues to talk nothing but good sense.

Suffolkboy added 18:44 - Feb 12
Such a sound judge , such a calm assessment , such a level headed characterisation of both the game today and of the challenges in each game and for the future !
KM and Co are earning and deserving our unqualified support ,and yet they remain solidly modest but full of aspiration !

Woodbridgian added 18:55 - Feb 12
I might be in the minority but personally I would of taken a draw for this game. Next three games are most definitely winnable and that would put us right in the mix going into March. The value of another clean sheet is huge as well and we never looked like conceding.

Radlett_blue added 19:10 - Feb 12
While a draw was a fair result & Town controlled the second half until a late MK injury time flurry, I didn't see any "decent opportunities" in the second half. A decent result & a fair indication of Town's improvement under McKenna.

SamWhiteUK added 19:11 - Feb 12
Can't argue with his assessment. Listened to his interview in the car on the way home and just found myself nodding along, couldn't disagree with any of it

Suffolk_n_Proud added 19:32 - Feb 12
Good set of results and hopefully 2 wins in our next 2 games will see us close that gap a bit more, albeit with a couple of teams around us having a game or 2 in hand we will probably stay 9th after 2 more wins

TimmyH added 19:32 - Feb 12
Certainly seem to be a more solid outfit under McK than Cook and a 2 out 3 win percentage isn't bad and chance to improve on that (hopefully). As he said the other day see where we are at the end of March but so far reasonably optimistic if not for this season maybe next.

ArnieM added 19:43 - Feb 12
Have to laugh . Their manager said almost word for word exactly the same thing of his team today.
It was always going to be a draw…’s a good point, but only if we win our next home games….

warfarinman69 added 19:55 - Feb 12
This man is the real deal. Not since the the days of Jie Royle have I heard such clear understanding of the game. OK he can't tell a joke like big Joe but I haven't been so optimistic for our club for so long. I now go to Portman Road expecting to win, I now see a plan. These are not his players, if Cook hadn't made so much of a mess we would be challenging for top spot. But if PC hadn't made such as mess then KM wouldn't be here and the club would have no future. It will take time, but we finally have someone who knows where he wants to go and how to get there. Remarkable. The record of clean sheets is the sort if record you exoect from an organised, well coached team. And stop knocking Jackson. If he's good enough for 4 managers to keep he can't be that bad. And me thicks KM knows moee about footy than me!

warfarinman69 added 19:56 - Feb 12
Sorry about the rubbish typing!

Blandford73 added 20:40 - Feb 12
I accept that football success relies on the performance on the pitch and results, however I believe that McKenna's influence should not be under-estimated. He will analyse the opposition and make adjustments to our team that will helps us win games, as opposed to previous managers who changed the side in the hope they could stop the opposition winning. This has, so far, resulted in us closing the gap to the top 6 at a time when all of our strikers are suffering from a major dip in form - at least in terms of goalscoring. I am beginning to believe that McKenna may be the clubs best signing for several years.

chopra777 added 21:13 - Feb 12
Being at the match today, we were not as sharp, probably because the team personnel changed again and needs fine tuning. Mosey appears to be afraid to shoot on sight. He has good surging runs and fails to press the trigger. Maybe it could have been the pitch and no one wanted an injury. Once again KM assessment is precise. Maybe bringing on the subs earlier could have given us the win.

SickParrot added 21:18 - Feb 12
McKenna is so knowledgeable about the game and very articulate. We also finally have a manager who can out think the opposition manager and change his tactics for different opponents and during games. Our players have also said that his training sessions are great. With a few additions to the squad we could be really flying next season. Another indication of McKenna's quality is that the Man Utd players are reported to be unhappy with the standard of training there since McKenna left!

Bluedocker added 21:45 - Feb 12
should have brought in a striker in january. we need to be scoring every game now with the amount of possession and drive from midfield but with no outlet.
I personally would like to see Burns have a go up there..

Bert added 23:02 - Feb 12
A word perfect assessment of the game I saw today apart from ‘shaded it’. I think after the first 15 minutes we controlled the game and deserved all three points. MK Dons are however a decent footballing side but our play was superior and we carved out more goal opportunities. Our manager reads the game beautifully and his knowledge shines through. Proud to be a Tractor Boy after so many dark years.

DeliasMashedPotato added 23:11 - Feb 12
In Mckenna we trust. Great analysis. certainly we are now a stable ship but the goals do seem to have dried up of late. maybe time to give the big lad tyreece a go? I'd love to see him given a few minutes in the upcoming fixtures

PhilR added 00:21 - Feb 13
So good to hear another sensible analysis from our Manager. In both games this week, great to see a Town side comfortable on the ball throughout the team, defensively secure and for long periods in control of the games, a huge step forward. If we can get the same return out of the next 6 games as the last - and we should have a good chance of that given the fixtures - looks like it will come down to the games against Oxford and Plymouth. Keep getting better, get some confidence into our front line, and who knows.

not_a_witty_name added 01:04 - Feb 13
Liam Manning thought MK Dons shaded it.
Liam Manning is full of bullshot.

Fatboy added 01:23 - Feb 13
Spot on, Bert. MK started strongly and after 15 minutes KMcK spoke at length to Donacien and Burns on the touchline. After that, we handed out a footballing lesson to a team that is used to dominating the ball. By 70 they were on the ropes and the game was there for the taking so it was a shame we couldn't finish them off.

On a separate note, it was sad to see Conor Wickham struggling in a L1 team having seen him terrorising Championship defences as a teenager. I was convinced he was going to score against us when he came on but that never looked likely.

Dissboyitfc added 08:16 - Feb 13
I went to the game, shame there wasnt a goal to celebrate, draw was a fair result i think we shaded it in terms of possession, but they possibly had the better the better opportunities as we had to rely on some top goalkeeping from Walton to keep the clean sheet!

Warfarinman69.... wanted to mark you up and down as i agreed with most of what you said but not all of it, firstly Joe Royle was actually quite humorous and could be very amusing at times, secondly i think we do have to thank PC for making the mess, KM walked into a better team than PC walked into, those changes and the mess it created were very necessary!

DeliasMashedPotato added 10:03 - Feb 13
P.s in other news - Paul Cook's Chesterfield concede 98th minute equaliser.. sound familiar?

cat added 19:13 - Feb 13
Only slight criticism I have from yesterday was not bring Aluko on earlier. He’s currently up there with fans and would have been the better option (imo) instead of the wind up merch Nors.

BlueSoap added 13:46 - Feb 14
The awful state of the pitch was a major problem for both sides.

Happy enough with the point, let's win the next two home games and see where that takes us.

Henz10 added 13:56 - Feb 17
Bluedocker - Why would you put the best RWB / RW in the league up front? Doesn't make any sense

We should have left Simpson at Swindon no point bringing him back to play U23's

I'm impressed with McKenna we have definitely improved under him I just think with the players we have he should play two up front with Chaplin or Celina in behind. Personally would like to see Jackson and Norwood play together as they compliment each other well COYB

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