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McKenna: We Want to Give Fans a Positive Feeling to Go Away With
Friday, 29th Apr 2022 17:11

Town boss Kieran McKenna says he wants to send fans home from Saturday’s final game of the campaign against Charlton Athletic with a positive feeling but doesn’t see the match as having much significance on the start of next season.

The Blues are currently 11th and will finish their season in either the same spot or in 10th if they beat the Addicks and Bolton above them lose their final game at home to relegation battling Fleetwood.

While a third mid-table finish is a long way off the pre-season expectations for the campaign, McKenna is looking for a win which will send fans home with a spring in their step and improve an end of season run which has seen Town victorious only once in their last eight.

“I think we all want to give the fans a positive feeling to go away with,” he said. “I think it’s a one-off game to a certain extent. I don’t really buy into it that this game will have a big emphasis on how we start next season or how next season goes.

“I think Charlton will have a different team on the first day of the season, we will have a different team on the first day of the season, I think it’s a one-off game to look at in terms of it being a home game against a good team in pretty good form and we want to go out with a high in terms of the performance and result.

“Obviously we haven’t had the results as of late that we would want but there have still been lots of good performances in there. The margins in probably the last seven or eight games, I think we’ve conceded four equalisers in the 86th minute or 85th minute onwards in four of the last six games, so that’s obviously something that we’re not happy with.

“But on the other hand, I think there have been very small margins between having won those games and being in a completely different position.

“Our last home game against Wigan [which ended 2-2] was possibly for me the best performance that the club has put together this season and there were so much positive to take from it in terms of the performance on the pitch, the atmosphere with the crowd, the way the supporters were behind it.

“I think there’s still lots of things to be positive about in terms of performances and the development of the team.

“Obviously we haven’t won so many games lately, which is something that we want to put right to finish off the season, but I think mostly we’re looking at it as a one-off game and something that we want to go out and give a good performance in and hopefully send people away happy.”

Blues legend Ray Crawford, who spoke to TWTD in an exclusive interview earlier in the week, will be attending the game, played between two of his old sides, as a guest of the club, sitting in the directors’ box in the week of the 60th anniversary of the 1961/62 First Division championship season.

McKenna hopes to meet the Blues’ all-time top scorer having met another Town star of the past for the first time earlier in the week.

“That would be fantastic,” he said. “Not someone I’ve come across yet. At the End-of-Season Dinner this week Russell Osman was there and Simon Milton and Matt Holland and George Burley as well which was fantastic, the first time I’ve had a chance to meet George and have a good football chat with him.

“As I’ve said before, it’s great to have that connection, for the club to be really working hard to build those connections again and to make sure that those figures feel really part of what’s going on at the football club. It’s really important to keep doing that.”

McKenna is unlikely to field a weakened team despite the match having nothing but pride riding on it.

Christian Walton will be in goal behind a back three in which there may be one enforced switch with Cameron Burgess having suffered an ankle injury in training.

The Town boss has said Kane Vincent-Young is in consideration for that role should the former Australian U23 international not make it, while youngster Elkan Baggott is another option.

Wes Burns could return at right wing-back, where Vincent-Young started and impressed at Crewe last week, with Dominic Thompson likely to be at left wing-back playing the final game of his loan spell.

In central midfield, another loanee coming to the end of his spell, Tyreeq Bakinson, will probably start alongside Sam Morsy.

Sone Aluko is available again after his knee injury and McKenna will again choose between the former Nigerian international, Bersant Celina, another whose loan spell is up after Saturday’s game, and Conor Chaplin, who along with Burns needs one more goal to equal top scorer Macauley Bonne’s total for the season.

Loanee Bonne could start what would be the last game of his season with his hometown club with Joe Pigott and James Norwood, who if he is involved will be playing the last game of his tie at Town following his release, the alternatives.

Young midfielder Cameron Humphreys could be involved from the bench, while 23-year-old keeper Nick Hayes could again be the sub keeper, as he was at Crewe last week.

Midfielder Tom Carroll seems unlikely to be in the squad having been told he will not be offered a new contract.

Like McKenna, Charlton boss Johnnie Jackson is aiming to end the season on a positive note.

Jackson's side, who away from home this season have won seven, drawn four and lost 11, is 12th in the table, one place and eight points behind the Blues. The Addicks have won three of their last four and are unbeaten in four on the road, three of those wins.

“We want to continue a decent run of form,” he told his club’s official website. “We have had a strong finish winning six out of nine, we’ll be hoping to make that seven out of ten.

“It’s a tricky game, they haven’t been on a brilliant run but they have improved since Kieran has gone in there.

“They are a completely different outfit as far as style of play and the formation they have used to what they were before. It will be a different game compared to what it was at The Valley, different personnel.

“It will be a good game, a big club at this level, there will be a big crowd, I know we are also taking a big crowd, they have got nothing to lose as far as placing goes, should have the makings of a good game.”

Reflecting on their season overall, he added: “I’m frustrated with a number of things. First and foremost, we haven’t finished where we wanted to finish, we wanted to be up and around the top two or top six, but it wasn't to be, so it’s frustrating in that regard.

“For me, personally, it will be the season I look back on as my first in management, there will be some fondness and good memories of some really good wins and some good play, there will be some lows as well such as that sticky period where we struggled to pick up points.

“In the long run, it will help. In summary, it has been an up and down season, frustrating as far as the club is concerned and certainly some frustrations myself, but also some really proud moments, to lead the team and a lot of lessons learnt.”

Former Blues midfielder Scott Fraser won’t be involved as he is suffering with a knee problem, while midfielder Sean Clare has undergone surgery to remove a birthmark due to the risk of skin cancer.

Defender Sam Lavelle remains sidelined with a shoulder injury and left-back Ben Purrington is also set to miss out.

Charlton hope forward Elliot Lee will be available having been expected return to training late this week after a knock.

Winger Corey Blackett-Taylor is back having been ill, while defender Ryan Inniss was also unwell earlier in the week.

Town just have the edge historically having won 23 games (19 in the league), Charlton 20 (17) and with 12 (11) ending in draws.

At the Valley in December, interim manager John McGreal’s first game in charge of the Blues ended in a dismal 2-0 defeat to Charlton.

The Addicks went in front on 26 via Jayden Stockley before Alex Gilbey sealed the points late on, however, but for goalkeeping heroics from Walton the margin of defeat might have been more comfortable.

Last time at Portman Road, in November 2020, a goal in either half from Albie Morgan and Omar Bogle saw Charlton to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Town.

Morgan put his side ahead with a low shot on 21 in an evenly-balanced first half, while sub Bogle scored with his first touch in the 68th minute to seal the three points for the visitors with the Blues never looking like staging a comeback.

Town striker Bonne was with Charlton during their 2019/20 Championship campaign, scoring 12 goals in 32 starts and eight sub appearances before moving on to QPR the following summer.

Pigott began his career with the Addicks and made four starts and 12 sub appearances without scoring having made his debut in August 2013 before moving on in the summer of 2016 following a number of loan spells.

Fraser joined Charlton from the Blues in January having only moved to Town from the MK Dons last summer.

The Scot, who made 18 starts and two sub appearances for the Blues, scoring his only goal on his debut at home to Morecambe, has started six matches for the Addicks and has appeared from the bench on three occasions, so far without scoring.

Addicks keeper Stephen Henderson made 24 starts for the Blues on loan at Town under Mick McCarthy’s management during 2013/14. The Irishman has made only five appearances for the South Londoners having joined them in September.

Midfielder Forster-Caskey is the stepson of former Blues striker Nicky Forster.

Saturday’s referee is Charles Breakspear from Surrey, who has shown 160 yellow cards and seven red cards in 35 games so far this season.

Breakspear’s only Town game this season was the 2-1 Papa John’s Trophy defeat at home to West Ham’s U21s in which he red-carded Pierre Ekwah from the Hammers and booked two of his team-mates as well as Blues captain Morsy, Tomas Holy and Albie Armin.

Prior to that he was in charge of the 1-0 home defeat to Sunderland at Portman Road in January 2021 in which he red-carded Kayden Jackson in only the 10th minute for a reckless challenge on Black Cats defender Bailey Wright. Andre Dozzell, Stephen Ward and one of the visitors were booked.

Breakspear also refereed the the 2-0 Papa John’s Trophy victory over Gillingham at Portman Road in October 2020 in which he yellow-carded Armando Dobra, Liam Gibbs and three Gills.

Prior to that he was in the middle for the Blues’ 4-1 home victory over Burton in the preceding February in which he booked Jon Nolan and Luke Garbutt.

His previous Town match had also ended in a 4-1 victory to Town, over Accrington Stanley a month earlier, in which he booked Luke Chambers and one of the visitors.

Before that he was the fourth official on the end of Cardiff defender Sol Bamba’s outburst which led to his red card when the Bluebirds visited Portman Road in December 2016.

Breakspear refereed the 1-0 Carabao Cup defeat to Stevenage at Portman Road in August 2016 in which he booked Tommy Smith and two Boro players.

He was also in charge of the 1-0 defeat at QPR in February of the same year in which he yellow-carded Kevin Bru and two home players.

Before that, he officiated in the 0-0 home draw with Wigan in January 2015 in which he booked Smith and three Latics.

He also took control of the 1-0 home victory over Bolton in February 2014, the winning goal a 55th-minute David McGoldrick penalty awarded after the striker had been hauled back by Trotters’ keeper Andy Lonergan, who had dropped a high ball.

Squad from: Walton, Hayes, Hladky, Donacien, Woolfenden, Baggott, Burgess, Burns, Vincent-Young, Thompson, Penney, Morsy, El Mizouni, Carroll, Bakinson, Humphreys, Celina, Chaplin, Bonne, Norwood, Pigott.

Photo: TWTD

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Bert added 17:29 - Apr 29
Expect another card happy ref. They have been shown like confetti this year at Portman Road.

blues1 added 18:49 - Apr 29
Sure therell be some fans on here just waiting to slag the team off should we lose tomorrow. Personally I'm not particularly bothered whether we win lose or draw. It's a nothing game. Whereas if u get relegated u can have bit of a hangover the next season, or if promoted, a bit of adrenalin from that, with othing riding on the result, it will have no effect on next season. Yes, it'd be nice to see a win on the last day, but lets not have the usual negativity we get every time we lose a game. Let's just look forwards to the summer, and seeing who we sign, in hope of a better season next time around.

AlanG296 added 19:33 - Apr 29
Hope the manager and players don't share your view of the game, blues1. It does matter. Every game matters in itself whether it affects the overall situation or not. We're 8 points ahead of Charlton, have home advantage, we should be aiming to win this game. We've lost only 3 at home, but haven't even won half of the home games. Time for the team to finish the season with a positive performance, including goals, and a win to cheer us on our way.

FrankMarshall added 21:38 - Apr 29
This game does matter. We will be playing Charlton for sure twice next season and they are also aiming for promotion next year. Psychologically, losing both games wouldn't be advantageous for us at all.

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