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McKenna: I Liked All Aspects of Our Game
Saturday, 26th Mar 2022 18:46

Town boss Kieran McKenna said he was happy with all aspects of his team’s performance as the Blues beat Plymouth Argyle 1-0 at Portman Road.

Skipper Sam Morsy scored the only goal after 37 minutes, turning home James Norwood’s low ball after good work from Bersant Celina.

“A very good performance, especially the first half, I guess,” McKenna said. “I liked all aspects of our game really, apart from maybe, being greedy again, saying we could have been more than 1-0 up.

“I thought our intensity was really good. We pressed high, won balls high up the pitch, we were really well connected and aggressive off the ball and on the ball we got joy with the things that we had in our game plan, the areas that we wanted to hurt them and overload them.

“We got joy from that and it came to fruition with the goal and we got into good areas time and again, and probably could have been more than one up at half-time.

“The second half was a little bit different. I didn’t think we started the second half great, I thought we started a little bit passive in terms of trying to see the game out too early.

“But probably after 15 or 20 minutes of the second half we connected our passes again, started to play with the ball and from then I thought we controlled it well, didn’t look in any danger and again can probably only criticise us for getting that second goal.”

Morsy, who scored his first home goal since joining the club, has got forward more since McKenna took over at Town.

“It was something that I saw in his game, his ability to try forward with and without the ball,” the Blues boss continued. “I spoke to him about and it was something he was really keen to take on.

“He’s capable of playing different roles for us in different games. Today we wanted to get Bersant playing a little bit more as a 10 at the tip almost of a diamond and Sam running off in that left channel a lot.

“He enjoys that role and does it well and he’s getting better at his timing to get in the box. It was a really good spin by James [Norwood] as well and a good cut-back and a good goal.”

McKenna has also been delighted with Tyreeq Bakinson’s performances playing in a deeper midfield position.

“I’m really pleased with his development, to be honest,” he said. “I think from where he came in at to where he is now, I think he’s really developing. He’s still a young player.

“He probably wasn’t in his top condition when he arrived [on loan from Bristol City in January] and I feel like he’s improving every week.

“He’s learning that role because that was something that Lee Evans was doing really importantly for us in the first few games after I arrived but we’ve missed Lee for a long time.

“It’s probably taken a little while for Tyreeq to get used not just to players but also playing that deeper role and holding the middle of the pitch by himself at times, and having the position and physicality to do that. But I feel that he’s really growing into that role and it’s nice to see his development.”

The clean sheet was the 12th in the 17 games since McKenna took charge, the sixth in the last seven and ninth in the last 11.

Asked about Town’s impressive defensive record, he reflected: “We just focus on getting better at all aspects and I think the better we are with the ball, the better that we control the game in their half of the pitch with the ball and pressing high, then the less time we are around our goal and the less chance there is for them to score.

“Certainly in most of the game, especially in the first half, there was very little action, very little territory for them in our final third and that gives us a good chance to get clean sheets and I feel like some of our penetration and some of our patterns and our movement is getting better week by week.

“We’re getting better at getting people into goalscoring positions and we just need to keep working on our execution.”

Last week at Oxford Town conceded a leveller five minutes into injury time and McKenna was asked whether there was any nervousness going into the final moments.

“It was a funny one because in a way it was pleasing because we spoke about it a good bit in the week that when you have an experience that’s as sickening as that, sometimes the best thing to have is for it to come up again very quickly so that you can try and learn from what you did not so well last week and improve on it and get a different outcome,” he said.

“I didn’t feel nervous but I didn’t feel nervous last week and I guess that’s the point. And that was one of the big points to the players last week, that clean sheets don’t come by themselves, you can’t take things for granted, every little moment of the game has an impact.

“There were a few little things that we let slip in the late stages last week and we didn’t let them slip this week. We were really focused in on the details and if you do that, then it’s a lot more unlikely that they’re going to score.

“I didn’t feel that we were under any big threat. I thought we took care of the details well and saw the game out well.”

Regarding the decision to start with Norwood up front despite Macauley Bonne having impressed off the bench at Oxford, he said: “Macauley had a really good performance off the bench at Oxford last week, it was just something we looked at in training as well.

“James has probably had at his best two weeks training with us over the time I’ve been here, interrupted by a little hamstring niggle that he had last week that made him a little bit of a doubt before Oxford.

“But in general over the last couple of weeks he’s been training at a really good level and we just thought that we know that Plymouth play quite a high line, they’re aggressive and it was important to have that movement on the shoulder of the last defender.

“And we feel that James is one of our better strikers at that along with Kayden [Jackson] obviously, who is not available.

“It’s a role that he really wanted to play and wants to play for the team, so we just thought that was the right balance in our attack today and I thought he did the role really well.

“Part of that led up to the goal with a really good spin-run from him in behind and a good pick out in the box.”

The win was only Town’s second against a team ahead of them in the table since the Northern Irishman took charge.

“It’s only three points, it’s no different than the three points that are on offer against Cambridge,” he insisted.

“But for us, I do think it’s an important step in our development as a team to consistently beat the teams around or above us.

“We had Wycombe when I first arrived, who at that stage were third in the league, I think, so that was a similar scenario, but since then we haven’t managed to get three points against the teams that have been above us in the league, despite some good performances.

“I think not just for this season and for the points chase at the moment, really just for the development of the team, the confidence in how we’re working, it was important to get the win today. That was one of the most pleasing aspects.”

Town remain ninth, five points from the play-offs and may not make the top six this season with only six games left to play. Despite the Blues’ form, teams above them have been equally or in some cases even more consistent.

“It’s just the way it is, we can’t affect that,” he said. “The runs of the teams around us have been incredible really, probably since the Christmas period.

“There are a couple of teams we’ve caught up ground on but there are also teams who have put together incredible runs of form.

“We can’t control that unless we play against them and today was one of those days where we could impact it, we could end a run.

“Oxford and Portsmouth were on long unbeaten runs or long winning runs before we played them as well, so we feel like we could have won those games and we would be in a better position.

“That’s just the way the league seems to have gone, the teams at the top keep winning and the teams at the lower end of the table have found it harder to get wins.

“So all we can do is control ourselves, prepare for each game, take each game as it comes and we’ll do that now next week for Cambridge.”

Despite Town perhaps having too much to do to make the top six, the feel-good factor around the club was evident on a bright and sunny afternoon at Portman Road on which Blues and Pilgrims legend Paul Mariner was celebrated.

“Definitely, you can feel it around the area anyway but you could definitely feel it today. I was really hopeful that that would be the case,” McKenna said.

“It was a special occasion with the celebration of Paul Mariner and what he did for both clubs but especially from our point of view, our club.

“We knew that that was going to bring a good atmosphere to the day, good weather. I think the fans have been fantastic, I feel that they’re getting behind how the team are playing and how hard the players are working and they can see that people are really working hard behind the scenes to help move the club forward.

“It felt like a day where everyone’s pulling in the same direction, players, staff and the supporters and I think if we can continue to do that then this is potentially a really powerful football club.”

The winning goal on Paul Mariner Day may not have been a typical Paul Mariner strike but McKenna thought the legendary number nine might have played his part.

“He might have made the run down the side of the box for the ball in behind,” he said. “We might have wanted to cross it into his head, his heading was so good.

“A centre forward didn’t score today but a centre forward was heavily involved in the goal, so we’ll take that.”

McKenna believes it’s important for the club to recognise and pay tribute to its heritage: “I think we absolutely have to embrace it. We wouldn’t have nearly 25,000 here today if it wasn’t for the work of our predecessors, the successful teams that were built here, the team that Paul played in being the most successful Ipswich team of all-time which helped grow the club to the position it is today, helped to grow the fanbase and the support to the position it is today.

“It’s something that we really embrace and are proud of and gives us encouragement and pride to be part of that football club and we’ll just try and do our little bit in our time here to get the club back in the right direction.”

Plymouth manager Steven Schumacher admitted that his team was second best on the day but overall was happy enough with their performance during March.

“To take 18 points out of a possible 21 is an incredible achievement and it’s no shame to come and lose away at Ipswich,” Schumacher told the Pilgrims’ official website.

“We’re disappointed, yes, but if we’re being honest, they deserved the win.

“I felt Ipswich are a top side and coming into it we felt it would be close, and it was. We didn’t threaten their goal anywhere near enough.

“We competed, kept going all the way to the end, we just didn’t show enough quality today in the big moments.”

He added: “I think you could see today that the last few games took its toll a bit and we probably lacked a little bit of energy.

“You could see that Ipswich had a week off, they had a little bit more in their legs and when we play these big teams, we need all of our players to be at the top of their game.

“We’re still fourth in the league, we’re still in an unbelievable position. March was massive and to take 18 points from it is incredible.”

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Vancouver_Blue added 18:57 - Mar 26
As always, talking honestly and becoming a fantastic manager 👏

budgieplucker added 18:59 - Mar 26
Kieran’s doing a great job and have full confidence that he will take us way beyond where the last 8 managers have taken us.

However, for once I didn’t like all aspects of our game, when was the last time we scored from a set piece? We really have been awful this year from corners!!!!

Secondly we have to make our dominance show, we should be winning most games at Portman Road by a 2 goal margin to give the opposition any feeling that this is fortress Portman Road.

I am sure Kieran will sort that in time when he has a transfer window himself and we can attract a couple of good forwards who can attack the ball in the air in the box.

Otherwise great feeling for a Saturday night with 3 points against a good Div 1 team and a professional display with the crowd enjoying and being fully engaged.

jas0999 added 19:39 - Mar 26
Completely agree with all of that. Whatever league we are in next year, investment in the strikers will be crucial. 1-0 doesn’t tell the story. We were so very dominant and with a poacher in the box we would win a lot more games and in this instance more heavily.

ringwoodblue added 19:54 - Mar 26
Nice to see Kieran smiling for a change as nearly every other picture I see of him he looks so serious.
What a transformation we are seeing under him and Pert - we now look like a team who can compete with anyone in this league which bodes well for next season whichever league we are in.

I am going to stick my neck out and say that McKenna is the best young manager in the country and so I really hope he stays for a long long time.

Edmundo added 19:56 - Mar 26
His honesty reminds me a little of the great man, SBR. However, to be happy with "all aspects" when our attacking set pieces are so lame.... well, I think Paul Mariner, let alone Sir Bobby, might have had a fee choice words about that! Doesn't take a lot away from a good performance, but we need to threaten the opposition goal every chance we get.

ImAbeliever added 20:50 - Mar 26
Luke Wolfenden is performing at a very high level and never faulters nowadays delivering everything he showed promise of 2-3 years ago, and more. A joy to watch.

SickParrot added 21:47 - Mar 26
We're the third best team in the league since Kieran took over and he's improved us in most aspects of the game.

We play at a higher tempo and our movement off the ball has improved enabling us to retain the ball more. We also press the opposition more (and higher up the pitch) and consequently we have more possession. There is now also a clear team understanding resulting in better defending, consistency and greater confidence.

The only areas in which we are still lacking (as mentioned in other posts) is set piece delivery and finishing. If Kieran can sort these out we should be top two next season.

It would appear that Kieran is going to be a very good manager and he must already be attracting the attention of clubs higher up the ladder. We must hope that he can finish his project here before he's lured away.

Ipswichbusiness added 22:09 - Mar 26
Bluntly, we need to score more goals. The strikers just aren’t doing it.

BossMan added 22:10 - Mar 26
All 8 of the clubs above us have won more games than us and drawn less than us and all 8 have scored more goals than us. McK has produced a dramatic improvement in results but to get us top two next season we'll need to draw less, score more and win more. Top 6 next season looks odds on next season but top 2 will need to see further improvement and maybe less games with a back 5 especially at home.

Suffolkboy added 23:04 - Mar 26
Everything KM and Co have done and brought to the task at ITFC has been of the highest order ! Rome wasnt built in a day ,but by Jove they’re putting all the building blocks in place ,with skill , with certainty , with purpose and ambition ; and besides they’re explaining and communicating in grand fashion .
The qualities on display were far above what one might expect of Div One game ,and Plymouth contributed greatly to a treat in the Spring sunshine ; it was so sad that the last minute opportunity wasn’t capitalised upon ( seemed from afar that two on one might have been better exploited ) but WHAT entertainment !!
Well done to all at ITFC .

slade1 added 07:40 - Mar 27
Lets hope we get promoted asap.
If McKenna carries on as he does there might be some premier league teams come calling for him in the summer.

Bazza8564 added 08:19 - Mar 27
KM spot on as ever and some interesting quotes above.
First and foremost i agree with the set pieces comments, we’ve missed Evans’ delivery but even that had been below par for a while
On scoring lots of goals, yes and no. We need to close games out from 2 up in an ideal world but defensively we are light years ahead of 3 months ago. Cooks side were the leagues top scorers but we were horribly inconsistent and woeful at the back so the net gain has been key.
I also agree with KM about Bakinson, yes he had his usual 2 sloppy moments yesterday but he steals so many balls in MF i’m really enjoying his performances.
I fear he will be a victim of our groaners at times but with Evans out, he’s head and shoulders the best option.

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