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McKenna: We Have to Make Sure We Do a Professional Job
Friday, 4th Nov 2022 18:13

Boss Kieran McKenna knows neutrals and TV companies will be looking for a famous FA Cup shock when the Blues travel to Bracknell Town for their first round tie on Monday and says his side needs to pay the Southern League Premier South side respect and make sure they do a professional job (ITV4, KO 7.45pm).

The tie will be the Robins’ biggest game in their history and they were clearly delighted to be paired with the Blues when the draw took place last month.

“A great tie, it was lovely to see the celebrations in the Bracknell clubhouse when it was made, a fantastic draw for them,” McKenna said.

“A draw that people will look at and the TV companies have looked at and thought of a potential upset, and they want to be there and everybody loves an FA Cup upset.

“But we want to go there and make sure we do a really professional job. Pay the opposition the full respect that they deserve for reaching this round and deliver a good performance that will hopefully send us to the next round.”

McKenna is aware of Town’s poor record in the FA Cup in recent years with last year’s 2-0 second-round replay defeat at Barrow coming a day before his appointment. The 0-0 draw in the first match had led to his predecessor Paul Cook’s sacking later that evening.

The Blues, winners of the competition for the only time in 1978, have reached round two in two of their three previous seasons in League One but are yet to make it as far as round three.

Three seasons ago Town defeated Lincoln City 1-0 at Sincil Bank in a first round replay, ending a 15-match winless run in the competition stretching back to January 2010. Since then, they have won once more, last season’s 2-1 first-round replay victory at Oldham, in seven matches. Overall, that's two wins in 23 in the competition.

Town’s last run of more than two rounds was back in 2006/07 when they were defeated 1-0 at Watford in round five having beaten Chester 1-0 in a replay and Swansea by the same scoreline.

McKenna is keen for that to change and for the Blues to have a proper cup run, emulating the women’s team, who have twice made the quarter-finals in recent seasons.

“I think that would be nice,” McKenna said. “But as in the other cup competitions, everyone knows the clear priority is the league.

“The FA Cup is a special competition and the club haven't had a great record in it in recent years and haven't given the fans too many days to enjoy.

“So I think we would all like for ourselves the chance to progress and hopefully come up against some good sides in some later rounds and test ourselves and give the fans another couple of days to enjoy, and this is the start of that journey.

“Again, we have to take each game as it comes and respect Bracknell on what they bring, and they've won four qualifying rounds to get to this point and are on a good run of form as well across all competitions.

“We need to respect that and take it game by game, but we would love to progress a little bit further in the competition and have a couple of good days for the players and the supporters to enjoy.”

McKenna says it was a competition which gave him some happy days growing up” “Of course, like everyone. I had the honour and privilege of growing up as a Man United fan, so I got to enjoy the FA Cup more than most.

“The 94 FA Cup final, when [Eric] Cantona scored the two penalties, was one of my best memories because it was on my birthday. So I remember having a party around the house and enjoying that one.

“And the 96 final when they beat Liverpool 1-0 and Cantona scored from the edge of the box was a good one for causing a big fight in my house with half Liverpool and half United fans.

“So that's a good FA Cup memory as a kid watching, as we all have growing up watching.

“And now it's about hopefully having fond memories for the rest of my coaching career and hopefully some good victories and good memories from being in this competition as a manager.”

Town have become used to playing in front of 25,000-plus at Portman Road but McKenna says the more down-to-earth surroundings of Bottom Meadow, which will have a capacity of just under 2,000 for Monday’s match, won’t cause any problems for his players.

“I don't expect any issues with that with our group,” he said. “We've all started somewhere, lots of our players have played at that level. I haven't done the numbers, but quite a few have played at that level and worked their way up through the leagues.

“Every stadium in League One isn't Wembley and there are no airs or graces with this squad.

“We know that the facilities are fine, we've been to look at them and they are more than adequate for what we need.

“And most importantly there's a pitch and a ball and two teams who are going to be desperate to go through to the next round. So we're looking forward to getting there and getting on the pitch.”

McKenna says he’s been able to maintain his usual level of detail when preparing for the tie.

“We've had a couple of the games watched live and we've got access to footage of all of their recent games in the cup and in the league, so it's been fine,” he said.

“We've been able to follow our normal process, although we've still got a few days to the game, so we're still working through our preparation, but everything is running as it normally would.

“And it's very important that we give them the respect they deserve for reaching this stage and make sure we are fully aware and the players are fully aware of their strengths and where they could hurt us.

“But also it's about us and our performance and we have to go out and put in a good performance and make sure we do enough to go through because we want to go through to the next round and beyond.”

Reflecting on what he’s made of Bracknell in the games he’s watched, he said: “I think they’ve been doing well, I think their front three have been a big threat. I think the striker [Jordan] Esprit is on 14 goals across all competitions already and the whole front three are a threat and they play positive and aggressive and fast and get the ball to the front three, and they have good players up there.

“So we have to defend them well. They’ve done really well on set plays and they have good variety and good options and big centre-halves who attack the ball well in the box.

“We’re going to have to defend the front three well, we’re going to have to defend our set plays well and, of course, we want to go and control the game and make more our type of game and control as much of the game in their half as we can and limit the amount of time they can put it into our box. But those times are going to come and we’re going to have to stand up to it.”

McKenna is likely to field a team similar to the one he has named in the Carabao Cup and Papa Johns Trophy with Vaclav Hladky coming into the side.

Cameron Burgess seems likely to return to the backline on the left with Richard Keogh also potentially getting a game along with Kane Vincent-Young in the right-sided defensive role.

Kayden Jackson might get the nod in the wide right role with Leif Davis perhaps continuing on the left. Alternatively, Vincent-Young could be on the left with youngster Edwin Agbaje on the right as he was at Cambridge recently.

Cameron Humphreys and Panutche Camara could get the nod in the centre of midfield, while Marcus Harness and Kyle Edwards could be the number 10s having come off the bench at Charlton with Freddie Ladapo similarly potentially coming in as the lone central striker having been a sub against the Addicks.

McKenna has said one or two younger players could make the trip, while new keeper Joel Coleman is likely to be on the bench.

Town fans won't need to be reminded of the Blues' poor record on TV with the recent home win against Derby only their fourth victory in 37 matches. Appearances in cups on terrestrial television have been especially poor, including last year's defeat to Barrow and the 1-0 loss to then-non-league Lincoln City in January 2017.

Bracknell, who have never met the Blues previously, are currently 11th in the Southern League Premier South, the seventh tier of English football. Last season they were promoted from the Isthmian League South Central as champions, having finished 20 points clear at the top.

Joint-managers Jamie McClurg and Carl Withers only took charge of their hometown club, where they were both previously midfielders, at the end of September having been in the same roles at Binfield, who play a tier lower.

Bracknell beat Harrow Borough 4-1 at home in their first qualifying round match, then Chesham United 3-0 at the next stage in a replay following a 2-2 away draw.

They won 3-0 away at Yate Town in the third qualifying round, before vanquishing Banbury United 2-1 to reach round one for the first time in more than two decades with the tie against the Blues catching fans’ collective imagination.

“You only need to see the way it’s drawn the public, it’s galvanised the town. It’s a huge opportunity for the club itself,” Withers told the Reading Chronicle.

“It’s put Bracknell back on the map. It’s been 22 years since they got to the first round proper and Jamie and I are really proud to be a part of that. For me in terms of management, it’s probably the pinnacle as things stand.

“But obviously we don’t want to sit still. We want to keep making memories and breaking records together with Bracknell.”

Since they took over, the Robins have gone on a nine-match unbeaten run, progressing to the first round of the FA Trophy as well as the FA Cup.

“We’ve got to praise these lads because they’ve bought into us straightaway,” McClurg added.

“So we can’t thank them enough and praise them enough in the way they are, and that’s as people, not just footballers.”

Withers said: “Bracknell was always a club in the back of our minds we’d love to have managed one day so when the call came it was just too good an opportunity to turn down.

“We sat down with chairman Kayne [Steinborn-Busse] and his ambition became very clear to us. If we didn’t take it now, it might never come again. It was hard because we made such great friends at Binfield and it’s a real family club.“

Looking ahead to Monday’s match, Withers added: “The biggest cliché is play the game, not the occasion, right? And I’m sure any manager would be saying it.”

McClurg continued: “I’ve heard people say that throughout my career and I’ve always thought the opposite. Play the occasion, don’t play the game. I had 22 seasons of trying to get to the first round and never got there.

“That’s what we said to them against Banbury: play the occasion because you might not get back here, no matter how old you are.”

Monday’s referee is Charles Breakspear from Surrey, who has shown 53 yellow cards and four red cards in 17 games so far this season.

Breakspear’s last Town match was 3-2 victory over Portsmouth at Portman Road just over a month ago in which he awarded Pompey two penalties, Colby Bishop converting both. He also booked Christian Walton and two of the visitors.

Prior to that, he was in charge for the 4-0 thrashing of Charlton on the final day of last season in which he yellow-carded only one Addick.

Earlier that season, he refereed the 2-1 Papa Johns 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.

Before 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 Johns Trophy victory over Gillingham at Portman Road in October 2020 in which he yellow-carded Armando Dobra, Liam Gibbs and three Gills.

He was also 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.

Prior to 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 control 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 charge 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: Hladky, Coleman, Walton, Donacien, Woolfenden, Edmundson, Keogh, Burgess, Burns, Vincent-Young, Davis, Hudson, Agbaje, Morsy, Camara, Ball, Humphreys, Harness, Edwards, Humphreys, Chaplin, John-Jules, Ladapo, Jackson, Chirewa.

Photo: ITFC

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ipswichtillidie added 19:19 - Nov 4
Phil you could have picked a better pic! Poor guy

Karlosfandangal added 19:38 - Nov 4
Would prefer if they put a stronger side out from the start and change it round in the second half if Town are doing well.
The players are fit from all this training and after 9 day rest must be able to play 2 games in 6 day surely !!!!!!!!

jonwillpott added 19:39 - Nov 4 least three of that squad are reported as being out injured!!! I am sure that Evans would be delighted if he could be in there!! lol

rgp1 added 20:40 - Nov 4
Phil I hope Charles Breakspear turns up on Saturday then he won't be there on Monday!

Help added 20:42 - Nov 4
Bracknell Town's badge has a quite worrying similarity to another badge

PhilTWTD added 23:14 - Nov 4

Only Evans, I think. Forgot to remove his name. Amended.


Habit! Forgive me, am recovering from Covid!

jonwillpott added 07:08 - Nov 5
Phil....Agbaje & Chirewa were reported as being out injured for U21's match yesterday and you have missed off Dom Ball too!!

PhilTWTD added 09:46 - Nov 5
Don't think that was the case re Agbaje and Chirewa, KMc wouldn't comment on whether they were injured or potentially in the squad for Monday. Ball my error, forgot him as he was suspended for the last Papa Johns game and not on the list I amended.

Linkboy13 added 11:16 - Nov 5
Would be great to have a good cup run but more games equals more injuries im afraid and would drastically reduce our chances of promotion. So let's win today and then draw a big premier league team at home and go out with our heads held high.

WeWereZombies added 12:25 - Nov 5
Withers seems to talk some sense, I'm sure he is going to have a lovely day...

Texastom added 13:59 - Nov 5
Connor Wickham sign him up. Brilliant goal!

hyperbrit added 14:04 - Nov 5
cup ties are a pain in the butt end of!!

SickParrot added 19:02 - Nov 5
We must avoid another embarrassing cup defeat on TV so I would start with an experienced team hoping to have the game won by halftime. If it's going to plan, make 2 substitutions at halftime and 2 more after an hour.

KiwiTractor added 05:04 - Nov 6
Surely McKenna will select a full strength side?? 9 days since our last game and no mid-week game this week. Otherwise, it's hardly giving the opposition respect.....

This is one cup tie we could do with winning, IMO

richardpaul added 09:13 - Nov 6
See Plymouth lost 5:1 to Grimsby Paul Hursts team I wonder if Plymouth are concentrating on the league as it's quite a heavy defeat to a team a division below Grimsby however are having a reasonable season

FreddySteady added 11:59 - Nov 6
Please, let's go for it. We've got a big enough squad to cope with the league and cup.

hyperbrit added 14:55 - Nov 6
I take back my rather toxic comment above ,but the risk of injuries are compounded by the proliferation of Cups dedicated to selling pizza and other such nonsense.The FA Cup has been and continues to be a fantastic institution that Town has seen glory days from in the past, but big money is ruining the sport these days and that needs to stop.

Razor added 10:08 - Nov 7
I agree with previous comments----start strong and kill them off and then muck about if you want--------whichever way NO slip ups!!

Steve_ITFC_Sweden added 11:49 - Nov 7
Razor: My sentiments entirely. I hope we have then dead and buried by half time, and that we chalk up a big win. But that is not to say I am predicting this will happen.

joyousblue added 16:03 - Nov 7
Good to see the Humphrey brothers in the squad , best brother combos since the charltons lol , get better soon Phil

dirtydingusmagee added 16:31 - Nov 7
COYB , Dont want to go in pub tomorrow with a carrier bag over my head , lets get it done in good style and move on . May the best team win , as long as its us .

Nomore4 added 17:20 - Nov 7
Double figure scoreline incoming

IpswichT62OldBoy added 17:25 - Nov 7
Actually Dirty I do that as a matter of course, as long as you make eye holes and a have a drinking straw no one seems to notice.
I have an old Spar bag

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