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McKenna: Definitely a Step Backwards
Saturday, 2nd Apr 2022 18:32

Town boss Kieran McKenna admitted the Blues’ 1-0 home defeat to Cambridge United was a step back both in terms of the performance and the result.

Dominic Thompson’s 56th-minute own goal claimed the points for the visitors who have now won at Portman Road on both their league visits.

The result means Town are now very much outsiders for a play-off place with only five games left to play and with the four teams above them having played a game fewer.

“A very disappointing day for everyone involved,” McKenna admitted following his first home defeat as Town boss. “I thought it was certainly our worst performance for quite a while.

“I thought especially in the first half the performance wasn’t at the levels we expect. I thought they dominated on the first and second balls all game.

“They were stronger than us on set plays in both boxes the whole game and we didn’t managed to get our in-possession game going in the first half.

“For a few different reasons, we didn’t get our positioning quite right from the middle of the pitch, we didn’t give ourselves the right options on the ball and I didn’t think we had enough aggression, enough penetration in our play to really threaten their goal.

“Having said that, I thought we rectified a few things at half-time, I thought we improved at the start of the second half, we were set up for a strong second half but what you can’t do in that situation then is give away daft set plays and give away goals on set plays, which we did and that makes the challenge a lot harder.

“It’s definitely a step back in terms of our performance and in terms of the result, the first game that we’ve lost for quite a while, so we need to learn from it.

“It’s obviously very disappointing at this moment but it’s a team which has developed well over the last period and we need to learn to use this as a big learning block and a big motivation and we need to move forward.

“Credit Cambridge as well, they’re a big, strong team and they came here after a good result weekend and they gave it everything they had. I thought their forwards were good under the long balls they put in and they ran harder than us on the second balls.

“I don’t think there’s been a motivation or an attitude issue that’s for sure, the players wanted to do well in the game.

“But teams like Cambridge in how they did it in the first half, they can give you a challenge. They can threaten your box with different sorts of play, so that was a challenge defensively the whole game that we didn’t stand up to well enough.

“In possession, we got some details wrong through the course of the game that didn’t make our options on the ball what we’d want them to be.

“As I say, I don’t think we were aggressive enough in terms of runs behind, aggressive enough in terms of crosses, aggressive enough in terms of getting bodies into the box.

“These are things that I think we have made good strides on and improved considerably on over the last month to six weeks especially, but I thought today was a step backwards.”

Regarding Cambridge, he added: “Their organisation was good, credit to them for that. They’ve been consistent with their shape all season but it wasn’t anything that we weren’t prepared for.

“They’ve been pretty consistent in that. Their set-up today was similar to how it was at Bolton away and MK and other teams that play in a similar system to us, so it was nothing that took us by surprise.

“Credit to them, they’re a very fit, physically fit and imposing and well-organised team, and I can’t say that they deserved to win the game but certainly they’ve put on a good performance and I think they’ll be happier with their performance than we are with our performance and they managed to get the goal and we didn’t.”

He felt the visitors’ game plan came off: “They were a threat on set plays all game. The first half was bitty. We didn’t managed to get a rhythm or a tempo to our play, the game was broken up and they managed to put more balls into our box than we would want them to be able to, more than any team has been able to do recently.

“I think that they managed to execute their game plan well. I said at half-time, I thought we improved, I thought we made some adjustments and I thought we started the second half well and I thought if we managed to keep our concentration in that phase of the game, it was there for us to go on and win it.

“We had a couple of good chances at the start of the second half and I thought the game was there for us to build pressure and eventually to get the goal.

“But we gave away a silly goal, allowed them to get that 1-0 lead and then it’s easy for them to break the play up and they did that well, it’s easy for them to take the sting out of the game and they had something to hold onto and credit to them, they did that well.”

McKenna had no argument regarding Cameron Burgess’s late disallowed goal: “I’ve seen it on the video just on the sideline and it looked offside. We got the first header but we had somebody in an offside position.

“From what I’ve seen, no complaints, the boys were feeling strongly there was a handball at the end, but I didn’t see that back on the video, so I’ll have to see.”

Once again Town were made to pay for not taking chances when they were on top.

“At the moment we probably need to play very well to win a game and we need to put together a very good passage of play to score a goal,” McKenna said.

“We’ve played very well and won plenty of games but we’ve also played well and drawn games and now we’ve played not so well and lost a game, and that’s an area that we need to really look at and investigate the reasons why and work on that.

“Certainly there are not many teams in world football who can play well every week. We’ve played, performance-wise, to a really high level consistently but it’s important that on the days you don’t play so well, you find a way to win games and we’ve managed to draw games and today lose games when we haven’t been at our very, very best.

“That’s clearly something for us to work on, to investigate and to very much have in our heads for the rest of the season and to go into the summer.”

Town now almost certainly need to win all of their remaining games to stand any chance of making the top six but even then that probably wouldn’t be enough.

“We need to beat Shrewsbury next weekend, we’re coming off an extremely disappointing result, we’ve lost at home with a fantastic support and we didn’t manage to produce what we needed to produce,” he said.

“I’m not thinking at all about other team’s results, I’m disappointed in our performance today and we’ll look to get that better for next weekend.”

Looking to the games to come, McKenna says Town have to treat them as they have their previous games, just looking to win each one as it comes.
“Exactly. It’s not the time to think about winning runs or anything like that, we have to each next match,” he said.

“We can’t control what the other teams do, the teams around us and the teams above us a lot of them have put together really good winning runs. We’ve put together a long unbeaten run with a good amount of wins, but at this stage not enough.

“It’s going to take a little bit of recovering from this one over the next day or two, but we’ll have a full week next week to get our minds focused and get ready for Shrewsbury and try and win that game and then see where we’re at.”

Cambridge head coach Mark Bonner was unsurprisingly delighted with his team's victory.

“It was a massive win for us, no doubt,” he said. “I think through the season we have found out how difficult games away against the top teams can be and let’s not make any mistake they are one.

“They are a brilliant side who are in incredible form, don’t concede many goals or chances, have so much movement in the team, so much rotation and really hard to contain them.

“We really wanted to get after them higher up the pitch but we had to accept we couldn’t and ended up defending in a really stubborn way and to limit them to the number of clear cut chances that we did takes an incredible amount of discipline and work ethic and I thought the players took that on incredible well.

“The first goal is always going to be key for us getting ahead and we have to manage the game a little bit and be stubborn.”

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iaintaylorx added 18:34 - Apr 2
Fair, and honest assessment. Just want next season already because it's going to be so exciting!

RegencyBlue added 18:46 - Apr 2
Got a lot of time for McKenna but he got it wrong today.

No way should Carroll have started. We needed to impose ourselves physically in midfield and Carroll is not that type of player. It was obviously not working and I was amazed he wasn't subbed at half time. That, and a lot of the other players having an off day, cost us!

We have to find a way to break teams down at PR because every side is going to defend with ten men behind the ball next season.

Gforce added 18:56 - Apr 2
Mckenna once again being very honest and summing the game up very well.Deserved at least a draw today,but wasn't to be.Next season we need to find a way to beat these teams on a consistent basis as 75% of them just come here to spoil,grind out a draw or hope for a set piece to steal a win.
Let's hope the boss has some gems lined up in the summer, preferably two strong 6ft 2 forwards to bully some of those horrible defences.

Suffolkboy added 19:03 - Apr 2
The real basis of a good team is already here ; our Manager and his coaches are supremely aware of the shortcomings in every respect and we can honestly expect reasoned player movements in the summer which will both hone the squad and it's abilities ,but also strengthen where weaknesses are well recognised already .
Congratulations to KM and Co for the way they've picked up the reins and given us all an exciting ride towards the end of season .

billlm added 19:50 - Apr 2
Gforce, sorry disagree we got what we deserved nothing, could easily have been 0-3 if it wasn't for Walton,

Linkboy13 added 20:07 - Apr 2
I think the fact that McKenna and Carroll were teammates at Tottenham is influencing his decision to select him in the team. It's obvious he's not physically up to league football and his better days are over a massive luxury player.

Letchworth_Blue added 22:45 - Apr 2
Yep agree bill we got what we deserved. Dont think their keeper was really tested at all. Its something that needs addressing asap. We cant keep dominating games but having no end product.

Letchworth_Blue added 22:47 - Apr 2
BTW Carroll was awful today.

bluesman added 00:02 - Apr 3
In 9 seasons Carroll has made 175 first team appearances changing clubs 7 times and has scored 3 goals.

RobsonWark added 02:21 - Apr 3
You insist on picking Thompson who is shi te

FrankMarshall added 03:44 - Apr 3
Good and honest assessment of the match. I think that he is the right person to take us forward into next season.

Feel Ironside should be mentioned. He had a superb game and was one of the key reasons why we struggled against Cambridge Utd.

SpiritOfJohn added 07:26 - Apr 3
Judging by this interview Kieran McKenna will quickly learn lessons from bad performances, and he clearly wasn't impressed with a lack of aggression throughout the team yesterday. It will be interesting to see which midfield and forward players he wants to retain next season and who he is hoping to bring in to replace them. A left wing-back who can deliver a decent cross from a free-kick and open play would also be on my shopping list.

Bazza8564 added 08:09 - Apr 3
Agree with the comments about Carroll and Yes Thompson had a poor game, missed Bakinsons strength and lessons learned for recruitment. Cam Burgess did particularly well for me, sense that LB CMF and CF will all be strengthened. Of the CF options, i'm more convinced that ever that Jackson alone will be here next season.
Cambridge were well organized and excecutex to a good plan. Double teamed Burns a lot and had a bit more about them than early season.

Help added 08:41 - Apr 3
Probably the, if not one of the worst performances under Kieran. Bad choices in the starting 11, 10 men who were all under par to varying degrees, only Walton came out with any credit from that performance. I think it is easy to see who will not be here next season based on performances and Kieran's player descriptions. Have been weak down the left all season. Strike force is as blunt as a soft boiled egg.

bluesman added 08:46 - Apr 3
Burgess lack of pace was exposed a few times. Thompson bullied out of it. Donacien made uncharacteristic errors. Carroll passive.

Wooly74 added 08:48 - Apr 3
Time for harsh assessments, whilst I appreciate others will have their own opinions, for what it is worth here is mine as a season ticket holder in the north stand.

I apologise for the poor spelling of some players, it was never my strong point!

Walton - Good keeper who continues to get better, could provide the much needed confidence for a promotion push next season.

Thompson - Not good enough sorry, lacks pace and strength to really get up and down the flanks and won't be a longer term option for us if we are going to challenge next seasons top six.

Woolfenden - Back to the Woolfy we all thought he was, however needs to work at set pieces and contribute more with goals from attacking corners. When he is on his game, he's without doubt one of the best center half's in this league for sure.

Burgess - Solid enough for this level and a good left sided defender who given more and more game time will continue to improve.

Donacian - Solid and consistent performer for this level, not sure though he is a championship level player if we ever get back there.

Burns - Find of the season for us, has consistently played exceptionally well and frightens wing backs when he runs at them, good goal return as well for this season. Can sometimes be a little lightweight when one on one defending.

Morsey- What a player for this level, always gives his all, just needs to score more or at least have the confidence to have a go when in the 18 years box more.

Carroll - Totally in-impressed, too many miss placed passes and poor decision making and often doesn't turn up at the big moments, sorry not one to keep.

Norwood - I was so excited when we signed him and I've seen flashes of what he could be for us, but over the whole period of his time here I think we have to say it's has been a disappointing signing and now I think is the time to move him on. I don't think he is consistent enough for us and at times his attitude is simply not right. Sorry James, I so wanted you to be out 20 goal a season plus striker.

Bonne - What a start to this season, especially when the rest of the team were not starting, but sadly I think he has been worked out by many of the sides in this league. Again, another home grown and local boy who I so wanted it to work for, I just don't think he is the consistent striker we need not only to get us up, but then to keep us up once and if there.

Now for some others…

Penny - Not impressed with this one, he goes missing in games and has been generally lightweight all season, sorry but one to let go of someone else will take him.

Aluko - I so wish he was around 3-4 years younger, what a player when he is on his game, but could also contribute with more goals, keep him, if he will stay please.

Celina - On his day brilliant, but sadly that's about one in five or six games and whilst he has touches of brilliance, we just don't see it enough. Sadly not sure we will keep him and may look for other options.

Chaplin - the little ferret, good controller of the ball and has contributed well with goals this season, one to keep for sure.

Evans - Was playing better under McKenna until his injury problems, so issues with keeping him for now.

Pigot - Sorry, not good enough for me and one I would let go.

Bakinson - I like this lad, should be given more time alongside Morsey to see what kind of partnership they can make longer term.

Edwards - I, like most town fans had massive hopes for this lad, pace, skill, but so badly needed a goal and then fizzled out before his injury. Needs a good start to pre-season or May have to find a new challenge.

Harper - Another one I was excited about, but appears to have done nothing in a poor Crewe side and may have to be another one we let go to give McKenna his own options for this key area.

We certainly need a second keeper, Holy will move on and the lad from Salford is not the answer on this seasons performances.

Jackson - Probably the only one of the four strikers I would actually try and keep and never thought I would hear myself say that after his performances the last couple of seasons especially that FA Cup defeat at Barrow, but spears to be a totally different player under this coach.

Edmundson - Brilliant at times for me and can't wait to see him in a Town shirt again alongside Woolfy, but like him he needs to contribute more with regular goals from set pieces.

I'm sure I'm missing some, but the above are the ones that I remember and have enough of an opinion over. In summary, we need to strengthen left sided wing back (maybe Cresswell will come back 🤔) and definitely need strikers a plenty. Also for me one more attacking midfielder to contribute regularly with goals.

To go (appreciate most will be under contract so not that easy, but in a perfect World)

Edwards (if not a great preseason)


3 x strikers
1-2 x attacking midfielders
2 x left sided wing backs
Second keeper (cover for Walton)

Appreciate that there's others not mentioned, but given my thoughts on those I've seen enough game time from this season.

Karlosfandangal added 10:03 - Apr 3
Disappointing Season. When Cook came in I like many felt we had a manager who could get us out of this division and felt the players here were the problem which some were and none have really made huge impressions with the clubs they have gone to.

Credit to Cook he got rid of a lot of players about 26 I think and it was something most fans wanted,He brought in on paper some exciting players in the form of Harper and Edwards who I think will still do well for us under McKenna.

He brought in Celina,Morsy,Edmunson,Burns,Walton who have had a excellent season. He also brought in Bonne who was on fire to start with.

However he's tactics were poor and with all the new players never got the team going so very much the right thing to say goodbye.

In Hindsight we should have got McKenna earlier in the season and we might have made those Play Offs.
Looking forward to next season which will be tougher than this with the likes of Peterborough and Derby joining us, However McKenna will get the backing of the board and I can see him bringing in some Quality players who will make the difference from the off.

Still have hope we can make the playoffs even those it's very unlikely now must win the last 5 for any chance.

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