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Ipswich Town 1 v 1 Bolton Wanderers
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 30th July 2022 Kick-off 15:00
McKenna: An Exciting Game Between Two Teams Who Will Hopefully Be Up There Challenging
Friday, 29th Jul 2022 17:55

Town boss Kieran McKenna will lead a side out for the first time on the opening day of a season when the Blues face Bolton Wanderers at Portman Road on Saturday afternoon in front of an expectant crowd in excess of 27,000.

The Blues will have two of the Three Lions, Mark Detmer and Berke Bakay, watching them from the stands along with Mark Steed, the chief investment officer of Arizona's Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS), the pension fund which effectively owns the club, as they play a competitive match in July for the first time in their history.

Expectation is high that this will be the season in which the Blues climb back into the Championship and fans finally have something to cheer about, Town last having won promotion back in 2000 when they reached the Premier League via that unforgettable play-off final.

McKenna wants his side to get their campaign off to a good start and maintain last season’s home form which saw the Blues win seven, draw three and lose only one of his games at Portman Road.

“It is a weekend to really look forward to,” McKenna said. “In a fairly short space of time we have had some fantastic home turnouts and home atmospheres - some really good home performances and some really good days, and we are hungry for more.

“We want this season to again build on the form at Portman Road and make it a really fantastic place to come and watch football, and watch an exciting team who play attractive football and win a lot of games. That is what we want for the season and hopefully we can get that started tomorrow.”

The Northern Irishman says being in charge on the first day of a campaign doesn’t feel too different to being part of someone else’s staff, as was the case at the start of last season at Manchester United.

“I don’t feel extremely different than I did standing there last season getting ready for Leeds United or different seasons that I’ve been involved in,” he reflected.

“I think everyone involved in football, I’m sure yourselves [the media] as well, are excited for the first day, the supporters coming to the ground tomorrow are excited, the players are excited, staff are excited, I’m certainly excited.

“I think if you love football then you miss it when it’s the off-season and you’re excited for the first game and I’m certainly no different in that capacity.”

McKenna anticipates Saturday’s opponents being among the stronger teams in the division, Wanderers having been one of the division's form teams in the second half of last season.

From January 15th when they beat Town 2-0 at the University of Bolton Stadium they took 44 points from 21 games, winning 13, drawing five and losing just three.

“I think they are a very good team,” McKenna said. “In the second half of last season their form was really good and their points-per-game was right up there in the league.

“It was not surprising as I think they are very well coached, have a good style of play and a good philosophy about how they do things.

“They have very good players and have recruited very well. Put all that together and it makes for a very good team who are going to be one of the dominant teams in the league again, and it should make for a very exciting game.

“It’s very early on, it has an extra dimension to it being the first game, so we have to see how well the team settles and how quickly they can find their flow and who can find their rhythm the fastest.

“For sure, it is an exciting game and hopefully between two teams who are going to be up there challenging at the end of the season.”

McKenna has been very pleased with the way pre-season has progressed with only midfielder Dom Ball having picked up a knock, and that a minor ankle problem, ahead of Saturday’s opener.

“I don’t think there is anything I would have changed about our pre-season, be that the training programme or the fixture programme or the travel. It has all gone as smoothly as possible,” he said.

“You can only control what you can control. We have been able to bring in some of our signings earlier than others. We would have liked to have everyone here on the first day of pre-season and had a full six weeks with the whole group, but that is not always in your control and not always in your hands.

“I think the club has done very well to move as quickly as they have with players coming in. We have had a good base of the squad together since the start.

“Obviously, with the additions we have brought in, on top of the players that laid down a good foundation last season, it gives the squad a really healthy look.”

McKenna will start with Christian Walton in goal with the keeper wearing the number one shirt for the first time.

At the back, the Blues boss seems all but certain to pick the familiar trio of, from the right, Janoi Donacien, Luke Woolfenden and George Edmundson.

At left wing-back, McKenna has his main dilemma with new signing Greg Leigh having enjoyed a promising pre-season in which he scored twice but with new £1 million man Leif Davis having joined from Leeds earlier in the week.

McKenna has said Davis is ready to play and the 22-year-old may be handed his Town debut with Leigh one of the five subs the Blues are now entitled to use.

Wes Burns, last season’s top scorer with 13 goals and a multiple player of the year award winner, will be the right wing-back.

With Ball injured, skipper Sam Morsy will be partnered by Lee Evans in the centre of midfield with Marcus Harness, another debutant, starting as one of the two number 10s along with Conor Chaplin behind lone out-and-out striker Freddie Ladapo, the side’s third debutant.

The likes of Leigh, Tyreece John-Jules, two more debutants, Kayden Jackson, Sone Aluko and Kyle Edwards look set to be among the subs the Blues will look to use in the second half.

Portman Road has seen a number changes over the summer with the new big screen set for its first outing, while there are new dugouts and digital ads around the pitch, while the tunnel area has been redecorated with images of the current squad.

Manager Ian Evatt is leading Bolton for a third year with his team having finished ninth in League One last season, following promotion in 2020/21, three points ahead of the Blues, having enjoyed a very impressive second half of the campaign.

Evatt has a similar approach to the game to McKenna and the one-time Blackpool and Chesterfield centre-half says he has a lot of time for his Town counterpart and believes the game will be as good as any in League One in 2022/23.

“I think since Kieran took the job they’ve had a massive upturn in fortunes,” he told the Manchester Evening News. “I think he’s a very talented young coach, I think his team are excellent, pleasing on the eye.

“I appreciate and enjoy watching them myself, but I’m sure that he’ll look at us and think a similar thing to be honest.

“I think it’s a really high quality game. I think it’s almost spoilt that it’s so early on and the first game of the season because I think it’s going to be technically and tactically one of the best games of the season in this division. That’s my own opinion.

“Whether we’re quite ready and 100 per cent for it, we’ll only know that on Saturday with the quality of the game. Normally, early season games are quite cagey and nervy and they lack a bit of intensity.

“I think both teams want to play with intensity, both want to dominate the ball and have strong core values about what they expect from each other and from our identity, so I think it’s going to be an exciting match-up. They’ve spent vast amounts of money again.

“They’ve got some really good players, some really good business. All the players they’ve signed are excellent players, so it’s a really challenging game and probably the most difficult game of our season.

“I would think them and Sheffield Wednesday away will be the two most challenging games, but we don’t fear anybody. We’re going there to show what we can do as well and hopefully get the three points.”

Evatt says picking his team for Saturday is as tough a task as he's had in his time as a boss with the Trotters and previously at Barrow.

“Since I’ve been a manager, and it’s my fifth season now, it’s been the hardest team to pick,” he reflected.

“Not just that, it’s going to be a really tough 18 to pick because it’s going to be a really tough 18 to pick because there’s going to be a very good senior player left off the bench and it won’t be for the reasons that we don’t think they’re important or we don’t think they’re good enough to make a difference. It’ll literally be the balance of the bench and how that needs to look.

“Other than that, there’s going to be some seriously disappointed lads on Saturday, but as I’ve said to them all, it’s hopefully a 50-plus game season and everyone’s going to have to play a part.”

As with the Blues, much is expected of Wanderers during the season ahead.

“I’m really looking forward to it, I must say,” he added. “People are saying this is pressure, but I don’t think it is. I think we’ve earnt the right to have this pressure, having this pressure and expectancy means

“I’ve done a pretty good job so hopefully that continues and the players are well prepared. I think we’ve all improved, myself included, in my time here and hopefully we can go ahead and show that this season.”

He added: “We’ve earnt the right for those expectations because we’ve fundamentally performed well for two seasons, we’ve had a promotion and a good campaign last season.

“We’re Bolton Wanderers in League One, we’re expected to do well, it’s as simple as that, but you haven’t got a given right to do it just because of the size of the club or the history or with regards to others. Just because they’ve spent the most money does not mean they’re going to get promoted either.”

Bolton have made four signings over the summer, left-back Jack Iredale, a player we understand the Blues were also eyeing, joined from Cambridge United, and centre-half Eoin Toal, who was linked with Town in 2019, signed from Derry City.

Additionally, Manchester City keeper James Trafford and Liverpool right-back Conor Bradley have joined on loan for the season.

Toal will miss out on a debut having suffered a minor ankle injury, but striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, who came close to joining Town back in the summer of 2017, is OK despite missing last week’s 1-1 friendly draw with Huddersfield due to a bruised foot. Midfielder Josh Sheehan and forward Lloyd Isgrove are long-term absentees.

Historically, the Blues have the edge, having won 21 games between the sides (19 in the league), Bolton 14 (10) and with 12 (11) ending in draws.

In January at the University of Bolton Stadium, second-half goals from Kieran Lee and Dapo Afolayan saw Kieran McKenna fall to his first defeat as Blues boss as Town were beaten 2-0.

The Blues were on top for long spells but without creating clear-cut chances before Lee rebounded the Trotters’ opener on 74 and sub Afolayan profited from an Edmundson error with nine minutes left on the clock.

In September at Portman Road, Town’s disappointing start to the 2020/21 season hit a new low as Wanderers came from behind to defeat the still winless Blues 5-2, Town’s first loss to the Trotters anywhere in the league since 2002.

Macauley Bonne put the Blues ahead on five but Afolayan levelled for the Trotters in the 10th minute, then eight minutes later won the penalty which Doyle converted to put the visitors in front.

A Ricardo Santos own goal put Town on terms on the half hour but just before the break Afolayan added his second in first-half injury time to make it 3-2, shortly after Bonne had missed a golden chance to give the Blues the lead.

After the break, Sheehan and George Johnston made the most of calamitous Blues defending on 47 and 57 to complete Town’s misery.

Saturday’s referee is Samuel Barrott, who last season showed 144 yellow cards and three red in 37 games last season.

The West Riding-based official will be refereeing the Blues for the second time having officiated in Town boss McKenna’s first match in charge, the 1-0 home victory over Wycombe Wanderers at Portman Road in December in which he booked Morsy, Matt Penney, Joe Pigott and one Chairboy.

Squad from: Walton, Hladky, Donacien, Woolfenden, Edmundson, Burgess, Ndaba, Burns, Vincent-Young, Leigh, Davis, Penney, Morsy (c), Evans, Humphreys, Harper, Aluko, Harness, Edwards, Chaplin, John-Jules, Ladapo, Jackson.

Photo: Matchday Images

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

ArnieM added 18:25 - Jul 29
…..”They’ve spent vast amounts of money again “……

Well, have we? I’m not so sure this image that is being levied at this Club is entirely accurate.

cat added 19:53 - Jul 29
If McK gets the balance right then we’ll push for promotion, and with his level of detail it is a real possibility. Last season was always going to be ‘carnage’ lol with so many new additions it was always going to take time to GEL!. 25k under the sun it’s gonna be a top afternoon! Enjoy!

itfchorry added 21:01 - Jul 29
Play like we did in the second half last
Saturday against Millwall and we are on
our way 🚜💙

ipswichboi added 21:29 - Jul 29
I'll 100% take a 1 nil right now, but would really love to see us rip them apart.

Get behind the boys.



Ebantiass added 23:45 - Jul 29
Lets do this lads.


BromleyBloo added 00:02 - Jul 30
Just COYBs!!!

FrankMarshall added 03:49 - Jul 30
It'll be a tough first game but believe we have what it takes to win it. COYB!

oldtimer3 added 06:12 - Jul 30
Managed to get seats for today's game. Many supporters must be away on holiday and still an over 27000 gate. Wow come on you blues

BlueRuin69 added 09:01 - Jul 30
As Morsy says lets just try and enjoy the day, nerves will transmit to the players....COYB!

Bazza8564 added 09:03 - Jul 30
ArnieM makes a great point. We've spent money on Davis (covered by the Downes sell on), and Harness 3 payments of £200k over 3 years.

So actually weve managed to get Leigh, Ball and Ledapo to come here by not signing their new deals and JJ on a loan.

I think thats Mark Ashton all over, and the budget still sits there with the window still open for almost 5 weeks. The PL squads are only now beginning to finalise, Im still expecting that big one....

As for today, we im feeling a little apprehensive, and that usually bodes well. We have a fabulous squad, the structure is right and the club rebuild continues on every level. "Now is our time" really could be absolutely bang on

SickParrot added 10:29 - Jul 30
I expect Bolton to one of the top teams this season so we couldn't have had a much harder start. Being at home with so much support could swing it in our favour but on the other hand the players may feel additional pressure to win the game. Fingers crossed that we can produce a good performance and get a win to start the season off to a flying start but a decent performance and a draw would be okay.

TimmyH added 10:57 - Jul 30
I can see this being a draw...humid warm afternoon and Bolton are under a bit of momentum from last season, probably a bit like the opening game of last season...

dirtydingusmagee added 12:05 - Jul 30
its good imo that first game will be one of the hardest, A win will be great, a draw wont be too painful, a loss will be judged on performance. Hopefully we wont have to be reading the old Cook script for weeks about bonding as an excuse for failures. I think we have a good manager who thinks a lot before making decisions, and dosnt flap about, and im confident this season will be a good one , and hopefully our last in league 1 [still would like to see another good striker added , ] BRING IT ON ,COME ON YOU BLUES !

dirtydingusmagee added 12:19 - Jul 30
RE EARLIER POST , Cooks word Gel not bond .

Nomore4 added 13:47 - Jul 30
Season ticket in SBR lower…..what’s not to like

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