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McKenna: A Thrilling Game, One We Need to Enjoy in the Moment
Saturday, 23rd Sep 2023 18:52

Town boss Kieran McKenna can’t recall being involved in too many more open matches than the Blues’ 4-3 home victory over Blackburn Rovers.

Massimo Luongo netted the game’s seventh goal 11 minutes from time to secure Town’s seventh win in eight since their return to the Championship after a pulsating end-to-end encounter at Portman Road in which the Blues had gone 1-0 and 3-1 in front before being pegged back by the Lancastrians.

“It was obviously a thrilling game. I don’t think many of us will have seen or been involved in too many more open games,” McKenna said. “I’ve got one or two comparisons in my coaching career so far, but not many.

“It was really open at times. We scored four but we could have scored many more goals. They scored three but maybe could have had another one or two as well.

“A thrilling game, one that we need to really enjoy today and enjoy in the moment. Lots of things in the performance, things to learn and things to improve, but the quality of the play, the spirit, the effort was there for all to see and I think deserved the three points.”

As they have throughout the season so far, Town dealt admirably with the game’s setbacks.

“We’ve got a real belief down there in how we play and how we work and our fitness levels and there’s a real belief around just keeping doing the right things,” the Blues manager continued.

“Irrespective of the scoreline or a setback, we’re showing a really good capacity to move onto the next moment, trying to get back on the ball, trying to create chances, trying to be aggressive defensively and keeping doing the right things for 90-plus minutes.

“And if we do the right things for 90-plus minutes, then we believe that we can be a good team, we’re an improving team and we’ll be a tough team to play against.

“Credit to the players for sticking with that and the crowd for sticking with that and there are going to be many more ups and downs along the way, there’s no doubt about it, you can see how difficult the games are.

“I knew today was going to be a really difficult game. There are going to be more ups and downs along the way but we’ve just got to keep believing in what we’re doing and keep believing in our principles and trying to do the right things for 90 minutes.”

Asked which he preferred, the gritty 1-0 wins his side secured at Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton of the 3-2 against Cardiff at Portman Road earlier this month or today’s 4-3 goalfest, McKenna smiled: “It’s nice to have both. We said we were going to attack the season, so if you’re going to have that as your mindset, you’re not going to have eight 1-0s in a row.

“But the positive is that we’ve shown that we can do both. We know we can score goals, create chances, we’re doing that every game in different ways, through the bravery of our play, building through the pitch, playing through the pitch crossing, connecting through the lines, counter-attacking, set plays, we’re showing that we can create a lot of chances and we’ve shown that we can keep clean sheets and defend really well and defend with discipline and organisation.

“Of course, you want to have the best of both in every game, but we’re not going to win 4-0 every game, so we’re going to have to find different ways to win games. We’re going to have to show different attributes, different strings to our bow.

“The challenges are much more difficult, they’re much more varied than last season and we’ve got to keep showing the capacity to adapt and find different ways to perform and find different ways to win.”

Quizzed on why the game was so open, McKenna reflected: “A lot of that is the nature of the opposition and our identity as well is to be really attacking and really brave.

“But I said yesterday in the press conference that Blackburn are a super-aggressive team, they put so many bodies in the middle of the pitch that it’s really hard to stop them playing through you and when you stop them playing through you, they play wide and they run into the half-spaces and run into your backline with so many bodies.

“They’d created the most chances in the league before this game, they’re going to create chances against every team with the identity of how they play and they have good players, and they have really good attacking principles. It was always going to be difficult to stop them creating some chances.

“On the other hand, they put so many bodies in the middle of the pitch, they run forward with so many bodies that when you win the ball back, there are so many spaces to exploit.

“And also, when you have the ball, they’re so aggressive with their pressure and they step on man-to-man that they leave big spaces.

“I think part of the openness, you have to credit or blame the opposition how you want to see it, I’d like to say credit because I like their aggression, I like their attacking intent.

“And they’re a team that at 3-1 down that are going to keep coming for you. They’re going to keep trying to flood bodies forward.

“We can see that we need to defend better, and we do in some of those moments, but, on the other hand, we have to go 4-1 or 5-1 up with the chances that we have. The only way to kill that game off really is to go and open up a four or five-goal margin and we didn’t quite manage to open up those gaps today.

“At 3-1, we had chances to go 4-1 or 5-1 up, and even at 4-3 we still had chances at the end to go and open up and go 5-3 or 6-3. That’s something we need to improve at.

“Of course, it’s not easy, but we’re having so many good, tight games at the moment and we’re seeing games out well, I thought, to be fair, we saw the game out well today in the last 10 minutes, but we can still improve at being really, really clinical to go and open up those margins to make the game more comfortable.

“Two really attacking teams, two teams who give each other problems on the ball. We had 29 shots to 10 maybe, so I think we gave them a lot more problems, but they also gave us problems and they’re a good team and there are certainly things we’ll learn from playing against the level of that opponent that will make us better.”

Did he feel his side began to tire in the spell after the break in which the visitors got back on terms due to the exertions and the travelling earlier in the week with his substitutes reinvigorating his performance.

“I think so, it did, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “The same for both teams, probably, to be fair, it was partly the reason it was so open, maybe.

“We were coming off two tough away games, on Tuesday night against one of the best teams in the league. And they played on Wednesday night, so they’d have been tired as well.

“The substitutes were really key in the game. Both teams brought quality off the bench. They brought on good players at the start of the second half, we brought on players on around 59 or 60 that really helped us, and we needed those fresh legs today.

“We knew it was going to be an effort from the bench that we going to help us win the game and the subs did really well, gave us fresh energy and helped us create chances and then only thing we could maybe say is that we could have killed the game off with more goals.”

Asked whether he was confident Luongo would find the target when the Australian international chested down Rovers keeper Aynsley Pears’s punch prior to the winning goal, McKenna said: “Massimo’s one of those players where you’re confident every time he’s involved in the game. Every time he goes into a tackle, I’ve seen enough of him now that I believe he’s going to come out with the ball.

“Every time he’s locked into a corner flag, you don’t quite know how he’s going to do it, but you believe he’s going to wriggle out with the ball.

“The large majority of his game for us isn’t scoring goals but when the ball bounces to him, he’s one of those players you just think will find a way, and he found a way to put it in the top corner.

“Great for him, I know he had his family here as well, so delighted for him and another really good performance from him and Samy [Morsy] in midfield.”

Omari Hutchinson, the winning goalscorer at Southampton on Tuesday on his first senior start, again impressed from the bench today.

“He’s improving week by week,” McKenna enthused. “He’s made massive strides over the last couple of months and made the start that every young player going on their first loan should try and do.

“He’s adapted to the culture of the group and the values of the group. He’s bought into everything that the group’s about, but at the same time he’s bringing his own quality and his own personality to the group and to the team now.

“He’s showing that he’s a fast learner, he’s adapting well and he’s a really good player to have around. We’re all excited to have him here, he’s played one position on Tuesday night and showed his qualities in that and scored a goal, and also showed his qualities out of possession.

“And then today he comes on on the other side and gave us a big threat in one-v-ones and also defended really well again.

“Really importantly, when Leif was struggling at the end, he was almost the first one that wanted to put his hand up and suggest that he goes and plays at left-back and helps him out.

“He’s developing well as a player but most importantly, he’s developing as a man now really and learning off the good professionals that he’s in the dressing room with.

“I think it’s a credit to him and his attitude and his upbringing, and it’s a credit to the group that he’s in because for young players, and often for many players when they go into a new group, they adapt to the culture that they go into and we feel that he’s going into a really strong one.

“I said it to him and the group when he arrived, we’re very happy to have him here and lucky to have him here and he’s happy and lucky to be with this group because he brings something to us and the group of players down there are giving a lot to him as well. I think it’s a really good mix for both parties at the moment.”

Regarding Leif Davis, who suffered a knock to his previously injured right ankle late on, he added: “I don’t think he’s to bad, he’s got some bruising on the ankle. I’ve not spoken to him down there but I don’t think it was too bad, hopefully not too bad.

“Of course, we’ve not got a league game now for a week, so we’ll look at the balance and make good decisions for Tuesday night to benefit the squad.”

The win moved the Blues back up to second in the table, behind new leaders Leicester on goal difference.

However, McKenna is predictably not interested in league position at this early stage of the campaign believing that having points in the bag is the only significant thing.

“I think so,” he said. “You know how I’ll be and I won’t be interested in points until… we probably won’t even glance at the table until Christmas with the group and even then there would still be 23 games to play.

“There’s so many points to play for. But it’s good to get points on the board early because we want to keep improving the team, we want to keep developing our playing style, developing individually and when you’ve got points in the bag, it just gives you the oxygen to do that at times and to keep trying to improve and not be looking over your shoulder all the time.

“It’s great to have such a good platform points-wise, but more importantly it’s great to have such a good platform to build on performance-wise because we know that’s our base and if we keep doing the right things during the week to get performances on the weekends, then that will give us a chance to accumulate points and the rest will look after itself.”

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ipswichboi added 19:11 - Sep 23
One word. Hero

WhoisJimmyJuan added 19:13 - Sep 23
Simply the best.

Carberry added 19:14 - Sep 23
Outstanding attitude and philosophy.
Although every win gets him noticed more and that blob on other club's radar gets brighter and brighter.

MVBlue added 19:19 - Sep 23
It was a great watch Kieran, end to end stuff. I already got the impressions that we are going to look at outscoring the opposition in this league to win, no backs to the wall stuff for us. Took my son today for the first time and what an impressive display, what a game to enjoy. Thanks for all you've done for our club Mr McKenna.

SohoBlue added 19:28 - Sep 23
What' a game. Sam and Massimo were rocks and the whole team put a real
Shift in. The ref was pretty poor at times and inconsistent at best, but the Blackburn team had some good, quick passages of play that were really tough but we stood up all over the pitch today.
Hutchinson is fantastic, and young Dane Scarlett showed great strength and maturity in taking it back to Blackburn and keeping a real physical
presence at the top of the pitch.
We deserved the win. Fantastic tactical switches at a key moment in the game as ever from our superstar manager..Kieran McKenna... UPPA Towen.

Saxonblue74 added 19:32 - Sep 23
How long before we get to the situation we were in playing lge1 football, where teams are happy to turn up, shut up shop and hope to go home with a point?

MK1 added 19:32 - Sep 23
Days like these don't come along very often, so enjoy everyone. Great game, great squad, great manager. Let the good times continue.

Rimsy added 19:33 - Sep 23
Great game. I watched on follow with Blackburn comms and a few times they mentioned that we couldn't keep that pace up and would tire. But we keep going with quality subs to keep it going. Our fantastic fitness levels are just giving us the edge in those sort of games. Blackburn will win plenty this season.

Vancouver_Blue added 19:57 - Sep 23
We are so bloomin lucky to have KMcK

Davidwb20 added 20:34 - Sep 23
Praise the lord, (No religious pun intended) for super KMck! Perhaps he can walk on water!

martin587 added 20:38 - Sep 23
We owe a great deal to our CEO for the steal of the century.

blueplumber added 20:50 - Sep 23
Super MAGIC mckenna.

Fantastic manager knows what he wants and gets players to do it.

NptonTractorBoy added 21:46 - Sep 23
Be careful what you wish for everyone! I'm so glad we wished for a team that were a joy to watch. It took a little while, but we got there!!!

bobble added 22:52 - Sep 23
great win ,now if the wallabies can beat wales it will be a great weekend

SpiritOfJohn added 07:15 - Sep 24
Another brilliant performance and fascinating interview from Super Kieran McKenna. Those supporters who are moaning about the goals we conceded need to read every word of this interview, and they need to start buying in to the philosophy. We are playing fearless football so get used to it, get on board and enjoy the ride!

Europablue added 07:28 - Sep 24
A bit more exciting than I would have liked! It's like we are collecting milestones at the moment come from behind, win 1-0 away against a physical opponent, win away against a relegated team, now recover from the disappointment of being pegged back to 3-3 to win. There will be a lot of analysis for KM to do next week on the goals we conceded and the chances we could have taken, but that's a learning opportunity and what shines through are exactly what KM said in that interview, our fitness and our belief that we can score more goals.

Orraman added 11:03 - Sep 24
Completely agree with SpiritOfJohn. Everyone who has negative thoughts about Town or who do not understand what the modern game is all about should read this interview with Kieran who explains clearly and in great detail how we are performing at the level we are. If they still don’t get it then read it again until the ethos penetrates your brain

greenkingtone added 15:32 - Sep 25
Well Bobble we stuffed the Aussies and we were singing hymns and arias! Remind me of the score again. Something 6

shotleybert added 17:35 - Sep 25
As SpiritOfJohn and Orraman have already subscribed to. What a marvellous and articulate interview. With no negative thoughts from Kieron towards anyone, not even the opposition. A joy to read.

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