McKenna: Good Win From Difficult Game On a Difficult Pitch
Saturday, 5th Mar 2022 18:41
Town boss Kieran McKenna felt his side’s 2-0 win at Fleetwood was a good win from a difficult game on a very difficult pitch.
Second-half goals from skipper Sam Morsy and Kayden Jackson saw the Blues to three vital points.
“A good win, a difficult game, a very difficult pitch, which made it a big challenge,” McKenna said. “A big challenge to come to our two furthest away games of the season back to back.
“To pick up after the disappointment from last week, the end result, not getting what we deserved, was a really good challenge that we laid out to the players at the start of the week.
“To put in a good week’s training, not to feel sorry for ourselves, improve on some aspects and go again.
“Pleasing to come here, pleasing for the fans that have travelled that we were able to come here and put in a good performance, control the game, play our game in very difficult circumstances and this week we got our reward with the two goals.”
Asked whether he saw things which had been worked on in training coming off during the game, McKenna added: “It’s no secret, we’ve been working on our final third play. We created a lot of chances last week but having sat down and reviewed things with the players this week there are things that we can do better in terms of our execution of the final pass and especially crosses and opening up some different types of movement and some different areas to hit, and getting that extra body in the box as well.
“The first goal was a really good example of us playing our way through the pitch on a difficult pitch, finding an area that we’ve got to a lot that we want to be really productive from and this time we made a really good decision, really good execution from Wes [Burns] and really good movement from the right space from Sam.
“That’s something he’s been working really hard on in his game and it was good to see it come off.”
Shortly before the goal, McKenna had swapped Joe Pigott for Tyreeq Bakinson, allowing Bersant Celina and goalscorer Morsy to push further forward as a result.
“That was a big moment in the game,” the Northern Irishman reflected. “I thought Joe had a very good game, I thought that was his best game in my time here.
“I thought his back to goal play was really good, he was braver, he got turned more, he played forward more, did things that we wanted from him but it was a time in the game where I felt we wanted that extra body through the middle of the pitch.
“We ended up taking a striker off for a deep midfielder, so it’s not always about how many forwards you have on the pitch, it’s about what spaces are available.
“We felt like we needed that extra little link through the middle of the pitch with Santi [Celina] and Conor [Chaplin] in those pockets and also we wanted to get Sam able to run off a little bit higher and make the box, which he’s starting to add more and more to his game.
“Ty [Bakinson] came on and made a really good impact, the players all slotted into their roles.
“Good to be able to change our balance and our attacking structure in between games because it gives us that threat and I thought the players showed really good understanding by the way they adapted to that change so quickly.”
Celina had started in a slightly different role alongside Morsy in central midfield. “He’s played as a deeper midfielder in his time at Swansea and he played it quite a lot last year for Dijon and he’s played it for Kosovo, so we know that he can do it,” McKenna continued.
“We wanted to get another goalscorer on the pitch. We thought he could affect it from deep with some of his passing in behind and he did that at times in the first half, he played a couple of really nice through balls from deep.
“He’s obviously a very good player, really happy with how he’s working. I think he’s come on leaps and bounds in certain areas over the last couple of months, so we’re happy with how he’s working, happy to have him here and want to keep developing and working with him in the future.”
McKenna is surprised that the goal was Morsy’s first of the season and first for the club since signing last summer.
“He’s been getting in good areas, to be fair. In the Burton game he had a few big chances as well,” he recalled.
“We think that’s his best role, obviously at slightly different times players have to do different roles for the teams.
“With Lee Evans’s injury, that changes his role a littler bit at times but we like him in that role, we think he’s got the running power and the timing and the timing and the hunger to get beyond people and get the other side of their midfield and get into effective areas.
“I think that’s his first one of the season, I’m surprised by that stat from what we see in training every day and hopefully that won’t be the last.”
McKenna was pleased with the quick free-kick which led to the all-important first goal.
“It’s hard when you come here, it’s hard to keep the ball in play at times. You have to work very, very hard to take the sting out of the opposition,” he said.
“It’s a pitch which lends itself well to setting up from everywhere, getting your goalkeeper to take the set pieces, putting throw-ins in the box from every opportunity.
“I don’t know what the ball in play time was in the first half and at the start of the second half but it must have been very low, I didn’t feel that the ball was on the pitch very much, so that was a challenge.
“It was a challenge to keep the ball in play and keep the game flowing, so in those instances it’s important for us to make our restarts as quick as we can, get the ball back in play, don’t let the other team breathe, get back into shape, set up the set-play routines.
“It’s important to get the ball down and play quickly when we can and play with our intensity.
“I think the build-up from the free-kick was good movement, we built through the pitch how we wanted to, we got Santi in the position we wanted to and the quick-thinking and the intent to get the ball in play and play the game at our tempo was good from Conor and Santi to pick it up, and obviously the execution from Wes and Sam was really pleasing.”
Despite the boggy pitch, McKenna’s side stuck to the same principles which have become familiar to Town fans during his time in charge.
“I think that’s important,” he said. “Convention might say that you can’t play football on these pitches but I think we’ve shown over the last two games that we can.
“Of course, we have to mix our game up, we have to have a threat in behind, we have to have a counter-threat, but it’s important wherever we go we go and play with the Ipswich identity and we go and look to dominate the game and take the ball.
“I think it’s better for us to be able to control the game that way. I think if you come to these places and the game becomes tit-for-tat and long balls and set plays, it’s not going to suit the type of players that we have in the team at the moment.
“For us, it’s important to try and keep the ball in play as much as we can, try and stop the constant flow of set plays and throw-ins into our box, try and keep the game under control, keep hold of the ball, keep it as far away from our goal as possible and keep trusting that if we do the right things we’ll be able to score goals.
“That paid off for us today but we have to keep improving as a team because there are a lot of challenges in this league and the surfaces in winter time is one of those challenges.”
He added: “We just really needed the first goal. As soon as the first goal went in the players threw their shoulders back. If the game had gone on longer I think we would have been capable of scoring more goals.
“We just haven’t had that first goal in the last couple of games. I thought we played better against Cheltenham, I thought we played better against Morecambe than we did for spells of the game today.
“I thought in the first half I thought we were quite good, we controlled it quite well but I don’t think we were as brave or as dominant as we want to be, understandably with the conditions.
“It was about believing and keeping doing what we’re doing. Sometimes you don’t get the rewards, last week a better performance than today, had more chances than today but we didn’t the rewards.
“But, as I said last week, if you do the right things, over the course of time, normally it balances out that you get the goals you deserve and when we got that first goal today that was a big moment for the team and it just relaxed everyone a little bit and the second goal wasn’t far behind.”
McKenna’s former Manchester United colleague Michael Carrick was watching the game from the directors’ box and now has a two out of two record having previously seen Town at Doncaster.
Asked whether the former England man might be along for the home games against Lincoln and Portsmouth, McKenna joked: “I’ll see if he can play in midfield for us, that would be nice!
"He’s a good friend, it’s good to have him here supporting the team and he’s been at two wins, so hopefully we’ll get him to a few more games.”
Town now have 10 games to go and remain ninth in the table but have moved a point closer to the play-offs with sixth now five points away.
“I know where we’re at in terms of what’s normally expected for promotion places and play-off places and stuff like that, so we know where we’re at,” he said when asked whether he has anything in mind in terms of what might be required from those final 10 matches.
“I know where we’re at in terms of what’s normally expected for promotion places and play-off places and stuff like that, so we know where we’re at.
“It’s not something we’ve spoken a lot with the players about. We did spend this week just reinforcing certain things about our performances and our points total that we’ve picked up over the run of games.
“We had an 11-game block, now we’ve got a 10-game block, we’ve ticked one off. We’ve got to keep performing well and we’ve got to try and win games.
“What we have is a run of games against teams towards the top of the table, good footballing teams, starting with Lincoln on Tuesday night, who are not at the top of the table but are certainly a very good footballing team.
“We’ve got quite a lot of home games and I think we’re going to see where we’re at, to be honest.
“It’s been a couple of weeks of long travel, playing on really difficult pitches against difficult playing styles to play against but now we’ve got a run of games at home against good teams, who are going to come and play their football as well and it’ll be a good indicator for where we’re at.”
Fleetwood manager Stephen Crainey felt there was little between the teams in the first half.
“We’re obviously disappointed to lose the game,” he told his club's official website. “There wasn’t much in the game in the first half, not many chances in the game and I thought as if a goal was going to come from a set play.
“We gave the foul away and don’t react well enough and Ipswich break away and score.
“The second goal we’re chasing the game a little bit and they break in behind us and get the second goal.
“From that point of view a little bit frustrating but we need to dust ourselves down and go again at Sunderland on Tuesday.
“The first 10 minutes of the second half were really encouraging. That’s what I said to them at half-time, [to] get a little bit more in their faces and credit to the lads they did that.
“Frustrating but the reality is we need to dust ourselves down and go again.”
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