McKenna: We Don’t Kill Off Games Well Enough
Saturday, 9th Apr 2022 18:43
Town boss Kieran McKenna was frustrated that his team hadn’t managed to kill off their 1-1 draw prior to Cameron Burgess’s 75th-minute red card.
Having taken the lead through James Norwood in the sixth minute, the Blues were looking comfortable until Burgess’s dismissal with Shaun Whalley netting the leveller for the Shropshire side in the 84th minute.
“Very disappointed,” McKenna said. “Disappointed at ourselves mostly. I thought we got off to a really good start, delivered a really dominant performance for the large majority of the game, completely in control, created enough opportunities and situations to go and kill the game off, but we didn’t manage to do that.
“I think the main frustration at the moment is that when you don’t do that, as we haven’t done enough, when the game’s 1-0, stuff can happen, especially at this level and away from home.
“We allowed the game to still be open at 75 minutes when really the game should have been dead in terms of the quality of our performance. That’s the main frustration at the moment, we have to look at ourselves.
“That’s a big step we need to make, to develop that mindset and that quality in group, to be ruthless, to make sure that when we’re as dominant as we are today, it’s case closed by the time we get to the stage of the game that the red card happened.”
What’s it down to? Mindset? Character? Game management? “It’s probably a combination of all of them. I thought at times in the second half we were playing very well but we were playing as if it was fine, the game was going to come to us, the second goal was going to come and we need to show more determination to go and get the second goal, need to show more concentration to go and get the second goal.
“I think if we continue at the intensity in the final third that we showed in the first six minutes, then there’s no doubt we score more than one goal.
“We created two chances from doing the things we do in training and as much as we dominated and played well for most of the rest of the game, there probably wasn’t the same level of urgency and aggression as there were in those first couple of minutes to create the big chances and to create the goals.
“Mindset and concentration is one part of it and the other part of it is the technical and tactical things that we need to keep working on.”
Again there was much to be impressed about in Town’s performance but without the Blues claiming the three points.
“It’s very frustrating,” McKenna said. “You can probably link it to some other performances we’ve had. We’re doing so many good things, we’re on such a good path in so many ways as a team.
“But we can’t just put it down to bad luck or the fact that they’ve scored an absolute worldie. We can’t put it down to that, we have to look at ourselves and look at what we can control and I think that’s the main frustration at the moment and that’s the main thing that we have to develop in the group for the rest of the season and especially going into next year.”
Not for the first time the Blues manager felt his side’s display was worthy of more than they got from a match.
“That’s certainly been the case, I can speak about before I arrived, but that’s obviously been the case since I’ve been here,” he said.
“I don’t want to exaggerate, but across the games, I don’t think there are many games where the performance didn’t warrant three points. There might be a few but not many.
“But it’s not about playing well enough to get the three points, it’s about getting the three points.
“There have been different reasons in different games but if we’re speaking about a general theme, then I think it’s fair to say that we don’t kill off the game well enough at the moment, we’re not ruthless or aggressive enough to go and kill a game and to get more goals for most aspects of our performance deserve.
“If you don’t do that, then sometimes the game can be left open when he should be dead, like it was at Oxford or like it was today and unless you do that you’re going to get more sucker punches and more unlucky days than you would normally deserve.
“Our focus has to be on developing that side of it, not feeling sorry for ourselves looking at what we can develop and do better in the team.”
McKenna felt the Shrews showed more attacking endeavour than some teams who have faced the Blues.
“I don’t think they sat in, I don’t think it’s a case of teams sitting in,” he said. “I thought they tried to press us, I didn’t think they were able to, I thought we pinned them back with the quality of our football, with our intensity.
“I thought they came to have a go as they have done against all the teams I’ve seen them play against but I thought we did a better job than anyone else of not allowing them to come after us.
“We generally built through the pressure well, got through the pitch and pinned them back into their box so I don’t think it was a case of them looking to frustrate us, I thought they were for the taking because of what the quality of our performance had allowed us to do and I thought in the second half the game was there for us to take.
“I hope we have more games in that situation, I hope we have more games where the quality of the performance is as good as that and we allow ourselves as many opportunities and limit the opportunities to as few opportunities as we have but we need to do better at turning that into goals and at the other end not conceding when the other team get very, very few opportunities to even have a shot at goal.”
Asked whether he had any complaints about the red card, McKenna added: “I haven’t watched it back but at the time, no. He was on the yellow card and went in on the goalkeeper.
“He might have got away with not sending him off, he was stretching for the ball, which sometimes you do when the goalkeeper’s going to clear it because you want to block it, but that’s not my main concern at the moment. But the focus needs to be internal in the group to look at what we can control better.”
With Burgess now suspended and George Edmundson still injured, Town will be short on centre-halves going to Rotherham next Saturday.
“Yes, it’s a game where very often centre-halves are going to be important with their style of play,” he said.
“We’ll have to look at our options this week, look at Rotherham as we do and look at ourselves and devise what we think is going to be the best way to go to try and go there and get a result.”
Is it too big a game for Elkan Baggott? Could Dominic Thompson start in the back three?
“I’ve not given it much thought yet,” McKenna continued. “Elkan’s been training with us for a good while, Dominic has played there before for Brentford and we’ve been flexible in the way we can tilt our system, so we have different options and we’ll look at that through the week.”
The Blues boss was pleased for striker James Norwood, who scored his sixth goal of the season and his first since January.
“A good goal and I’m pleased for him,” he continued. “I think with his performances over the last couple of weeks and in training especially it’s probably been coming, which is why we decided to stick with him and give him that little bit of a run. We’ve been happy with his performances and he’s been having his best spell in training.
“A striker is always pleased when he gets the goals, so he’ll be happy with that but I’m sure he’d rather we’d have got the three points.”
Matt Penney also came into the side having impressed his manager at Playford Road: “He’s been chipping away. Dominic’s been pretty consistent and part of our well-functioning backline, so Matt’s had to be patient.
“He’s done that and he’s trained well and we thought today was a good chance to give him an opportunity to start a game.”
Shrewsbury boss Steve Cotterill felt his team grew into the game in the first half.
“The first five minutes weren’t very good but then it became an even game in the first half,” he told his club's official website.
“I thought they were excellent, they played with a good tempo and I thought they deserved the lead and that took the wind out of our sails a little bit.
“We worked our way back into the game in the first half and it was important that we didn’t concede another before half-time because that probably would’ve been the game done then, but I think it was a pretty equal game in the first half.
“In the second half, we changed shape slightly and we couldn’t get enough pressure on the ball so we made a change.
“Shaun [Whalley]’s very good at landing on second balls and there were a few times where we played a ball forward too long too early when we didn’t need to do that, but it had become one of those games and Shaun can do that, he can land on second balls and thankfully he landed on that one today and it was a brilliant finish.
“When the ball turned over, it was about us keeping it a bit longer. It doesn’t matter how good the other team is, if you keep the ball then it can potentially take that heat out of the game and we didn’t do that well enough in the early part of the game.
“I think we came into the game after the first five minutes and we could’ve scored a couple of goals ourselves in the first half.
“We needed to see what shape they went into [after the red card] and then we could decide if we were going to change shape.
“We were going to bring Saikou [Janneh] on and change shape but then we didn’t want to change shape [after the red card], so I’m glad I waited and didn’t make the substitution because we would’ve had to change our shape back, so that’s why we needed to make sure we did keep the tempo in the game when the red card happened.”
Photo: Action Images
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