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McKenna: It Shouldn't Have Been 3-2
Saturday, 11th Nov 2023 18:52

Boss Kieran McKenna admitted his frustration at the way his side ended their 3-2 home victory over 10-man Swansea and felt the Blues ought to have scored more goals but overall took plenty of positives from the game.

Town, who remain second with only goal difference now separating them from leaders Leicester City, managed 22 shots during the game, nine on target.

“Let’s get it right, it shouldn’t have been 3-2,” McKenna said. “There’s bits of frustration in there about that but, of course, there were lots of good things about the game and the way we played.

“The way we overcame adversity and played some really good football and could have had any number of goals, really.

“We should have been out of sight and I didn’t like how we played in the last 15 minutes against the 10 men.

“I didn’t like our concentration levels, I didn’t like our humility to realise that the other team [were still looking for goals], Jamal Lowe’s a very good player, we still have to be concentrating.

“We dropped the concentration levels and that’s a frustration in the dressing room at the moment.

“That’s a good thing because that’s not just a frustration in the staff room, it’s a frustration in the dressing room that we didn’t maintain our standards for the last 15 minutes of that game.”

McKenna says it’s good to still be taking all three points despite there being lessons to be learned.

“Definitely, no doubt about it and that’s been the case in lots of games this year,” he reflected.

“Sometimes something goes against you, like on Tuesday night [at Rotherham] when we didn’t quite do something right on a set piece and we got punished. Other days you don’t, but you’ve still got to try and learn the lessons.

“There’s a lesson in there but on the other hand, massive credit to the group, massive credit for the response, massive credit to how we played throughout the first half, the way we came out in the second half, the way we chased down, built pressure for the third goal. There were some outstanding things in there.

“For us, the process is always just looking at what we did well but also looking at the bits that we can improve and that was one in terms of concentration at the end that the group are frustrated about and will, I’m sure, make us stronger.”

The Northern Irishman was disappointed with the slow start, which saw the Swans take a seventh-minute lead via Jay Fulton, before Jack Taylor set Town on their way with a brilliant strike, his fourth goal of the season and second in two matches.

“It’s quite unusual for us because I think over the last year or two years almost since I’ve been here, we’ve started games really, really well, and especially at home we’ve traditionally come out of the blocks really, really fast,” the Town manager recalled.

“That didn’t quite happen in the first few minutes today. Swansea started the game better and got the goal really early. They looked a little bit sharper in the first few minutes and they scored with their first chance with the set play.

“That’s the margins in football. We had a set play a minute later that Conor [Chaplin] could have scored and if he’d have scored his and they hadn’t have scored theirs, we’d probably have said it was a really good start.

“Strange for us to concede another early goal. Of course, we’ll look at it but sometimes things just do come in cycles a little bit.

“But the response was excellent. Jack’s goal, massive credit for him, a big day for him, deserves hopefully all the plaudits he’ll get for the goal and his all-round performance was excellent, and for the way that we played in the large part of the rest of the game, the chances we created, the penetration that we had.

“As I say, the only frustration in our attacking play is that we didn’t go and get, I won’t put a number on it, but there were a lot of goals out there for us today.”

McKenna was clearly annoyed by the way his team ended the match and he was asked whether he made his frustrations clear and if that was the first time they’d seen that side of him.

“It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve seen that side, but the main thing is that the players are frustrated with it,” he continued.

“Of course, myself and the staff are frustrated with the last 10 minutes or so, but the players are frustrated as well, and I think that is more important.

“We’ll learn from it, as I’ve said, it’s great to have these lessons and still win the game, but we know there’s no way that in the 98th minute that the ball should be coming in our box with a one-goal margin with the way that game played out. A good little marker for us going into the break and one we’ll learn from.”

He added: “We could have scored more, for sure. I think we’re the top goalscorers but we still feel that we can be more clinical.

“Of course, we scored a wonderful first goal as well, but I think we were good value for lots of goals.

“The main thing is that we’re creating plenty of chances in general. I know there are other games where we’re not going to be able to create as many as today because teams set up differently but Swansea came with a really positive, aggressive game plan, came with a high line and back four and in those situations it’s important that we can show that we’re a big threat.”

Town were finally awarded their first penalty of the season eight minutes into the second half after Taylor was fouled by Harrison Ashby, not long after Harry Clarke had had a header chalked off for what looked like little reason.

“They had to take a goal off us on the set piece to give us the penalty, but we got one in the end,” McKenna smiled ruefully.

“That was important to kill the game. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with Clarkey’s goal and that was frustrating because we work so hard on our set play routines and it was a terrifically well-worked routine to score the goal that was disallowed for a block that was pretty innocuous.

“But, of course, we got the penalty a couple of minutes later and that gave us the comfort in the game.”

Omari Hutchinson was among those to catch the eye and McKenna is pleased with the on-loan Chelsea man’s development.

“He’s coming on really well,” he said. “I think from our point of view, the player’s point of view and I know from Chelsea’s point of view, it’s everything you’d want in a loan so far.

“It’s his first loan, he hadn’t played any significant first-team minutes before, he came on against Man City last year, but had played a very, very low number of senior minutes.

“It’s been a really positive experience for everyone so far, from his learning at the training ground first of all, being around a really mature, driven, focused group.

“A really demanding environment where the players train to a high level every day and he’s really bought into that culture, he’s worked hard to be part of things and the players have done a great job making him part of it.

“Then for us, it’s about trying to help develop his game and the great attributes that he has, showing him how he can be more effective in different ways, and he’s definitely made improvements over the last few months and hopefully he’ll continue to do so and he’ll continue to contribute.”

Asked whether he was disappointed with Hutchinson’s end product this afternoon, McKenna added: “I think the main thing for a young player was the way he was getting in the situations, his movement in behind has improved greatly over the last couple of months, the penetration in his game has been really high.

“His pressing, his counter-pressing led to a couple of those chances, so I think with a young player, if you’re showing the attitude to work that he is, if you’re showing an understanding of how he can get in and be dangerous, you can always develop the last pass or the last finish, which he works really, really hard on, and he’s got a great mindset to do that.

“I think the main thing is the big positive of the way he’s threatening the opposition, getting himself into great positions and putting in a great effort for the team off the ball.”

Hutchinson has only completed the full 90 minutes twice since joining the Blues but McKenna says that’s typical of Town’s frontmen.

“I think that’s pretty common with most of our forward players, if you look at that. I wouldn’t know the stats,” he said.

“We play a really intense style, we put a big demand on the players, so it’s very infrequent that we don’t use our five subs and it’s very, very common for four of those subs to be our front four.

“A little bit of it was as he came here, trying to ease him into the team and develop his understanding of what the team needed from him and his relationship with other players.

“So there’s a little bit of not putting too much on him too soon, but also our forwards rotate, they start games or they come in in games.

“I think we’re the team who have scored the most goals off the bench by a bit and he’s learning how to start games, but he’s also, which is really important for a forward player, learning how to come on in games and how to try and impact games immediately when he steps onto the pitch.”

Quizzed on any concerns that Chelsea might recall the 20-year-old in January, McKenna said: “I think they’re pretty flush with left-footed, right-sided attackers, so it’s not a phone call we’re expecting, but with loans you never know, so, of course, we’re respectful, he’s not our player.

“I think at the moment, all sides, our club, certainly the player and his family and his parent club all see the benefits of the exposure that he’s getting here and everyone’s really happy with that situation and I’m there’s a great chance that that will stay the same.”

Full-back Brandon Williams was absent from the squad having missed the Birmingham game through illness and then having returned to the bench at Rotherham on Tuesday.

“He’s still ill, so he’s not been with us in the last few days, hopefully we’ll have him on Monday,” McKenna explained.

Going into the last international break, McKenna said the squad needed it and he says the situation is similar this time around.

“I think I need it after that last five minutes,” he joked. “We’ve had six games in 18 days and throw in a return journey to Rotherham on top of that.

“It’s been a busy spell, so the players are pushing really hard, concentration from a mental point of view but also from a physical point of view, so for a lot of them the break comes at a good time. We’ve got some niggles in the group, some illness in the group, a chance to settle all those things down.

“We’ll train in the early part of next week and then the players will have a few days off and then we’ll have a full week leading into West Brom.

“Of course, not with the full squad because we’ll lose a few players but with a good number of the squad. Will we play a friendly? No, we’ll focus on the training and the recover this time.”

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jas0999 added 19:00 - Nov 11
A good home win and KM is disappointed with the last fifteen minutes. Love it! Shows how good this guy is.

Interesting to see whether he’s looking to strengthen in January. You assume so.

Nomore4 added 19:28 - Nov 11
On another day we score at least 6….. That’s how it felt.

billlm added 19:41 - Nov 11
Not being funny he's so right 3-2 that was 4-1 5-1 and I thought Swansea were half decent,
We have to stop this stupid concerning first and take our chances, or this is going to end up play offs,

Linkboy13 added 20:00 - Nov 11
The strength of our club is our manager i know it sounds obvious. But we haven't got any big money signings but we've got a manager who's getting the maximum effort from what he's got at his disposal correct me if im wrong but i think the most we have paid for a player is 1.5 million and that's bonkers compared to some teams in the championship. Possibly today if we had a 5 million pound striker we might have won 6 2 but would he give the team one hundred percent every week. You can spend big money on players but our they coming here for the right reasons to wear the shirt with pride it's swings and roundabouts and getting the balance right. But at the moment it's amazing being a Town fan.

Broadbent23 added 20:04 - Nov 11
KM is correct again with his assessment, but harsher than usual. But he wants near perfection. Last season after 16 matches Burnley had 30 points 29 for and 15 against (goals). So we have a similar difference in goals but a superior points total (teams played will differ in strength) but the comparison between a relegated side and a promoted side is vast. So hopefully a leaky defence will get better. We might be guilty of naivety within the championship and taking the foot off the pedal. Our courage in battling is fantastic. KM knows best.

Help added 20:14 - Nov 11
Quite correct. How on earth can 10 men make 11 run around like that for the last 10-15 minutes I do not know. We should have been doing that to them. Passing. Moving the ball at pace around them making them chase the ball. Tire them out then attack the goal. Jackson instead of ladapo to put pressure and pace on them. Poor finish from the players. But still a win and second only by goal difference. Which could have been enhanced with the first half chances being taken. And continued concentration at the end of the second. Could have been an much different game in the end.

Nomore4 added 20:17 - Nov 11
I agree Bill, Swansea looked decent, and have decent players who played no part today.
You would think…..a team to take points of others.
And lost there 2 best players in the summer…..unfortunately for them.

herfie added 20:21 - Nov 11
We are still very much ‘work in progress’, with huge scope for consolidating and improving. Given where we’ve come from, to be sitting joint top of a highly competitive league, is totally amazing. I suspect KM will have firm, measured, words regarding how we managed the final 20 mins of the game.

Bucklebury_blue added 20:44 - Nov 11
Same story at Rotherham to let them score. shut the game down!

blueboy1981 added 21:00 - Nov 11
McK knows there is a problem with the way we concede Goals, it’s only Hissy Fit Dreamboat Fans that are not concerned - because we are WINNING !
Thankfully, McK knows it cannot continue - and must be sorted.
Some Big opposition, and Big Testing Games coming up - that will require a Skinflint and Concentrating Defence to WIN …. !!!
He Knows ! …… shame some of you don’t … !!

Nomore4 added 21:47 - Nov 11
You can spend 100£m on a new defence…. It will still let in goals.
We are joint top and unbeaten away. Whilst scoring for fun.
I hope KMcK doesn’t change to much…..if he thinks there’s issues there.
We never lose so can’t be much?

ArnieM added 22:25 - Nov 11
Wasteful in our attacking box … possible as many as 10 gilt edged chances we squandered.
Soft as bloody nuts in our defending box . We can’t defend balls into our box. CB’s who can’t header the ball, can’t Marshall or mark their opponent effectively, who don’t / won’t tackle. Couldn’t give a flying one if they can “ bring it out of defence”… it’s about DEFENDING! Our best CB’s are Axel and Baggot.

We need a more clinical striker and to either bring in another CB to play alongside Axel or to start bribing in Baggot alongside Axel.

I know this will upset a lot on here but this is how I genuinely see it. It remains to be seen if McKenna does.

Nomore4 added 23:15 - Nov 11
#arnie But all those things are currently taking us to the Premier league.
Baggot hasn’t played any meaningful 1st team games as yet and Axel has played less than a handful of games in 3 years. Both clearly not ready to claim a spot yet.

SpiritOfJohn added 07:25 - Nov 12
We defend as a team and we attack as a team. Most of the players who finished the match switched over to cruise control when Swansea went down to ten and supporters near me were also getting complacent, talking about us going on to get 5 or 6 and improve our goal difference. So it is unfair to just criticise the centre backs. However, Woolfenden needs to develop a meaner streak to his game. There is no way Butcher, Hunter or Wark would have let Jamal Lowe through in that situation - sometimes you have to take a yellow card for the team.

Len_Brennan added 07:33 - Nov 12
It's another clinically honest post-match assessment from KMcK here, but with a noticeably more frustrated & critical tone than we are used to, despite the win against a decent side.
He'll still say that the table doesn't matter at this stage, & I believe that he is reinforcing that mantra with the squad, in order to keep them focused on their game by game mindset; but clearly the start we have made & the opportunity that has now been presented for a 'game changing' automatic promotion, has made a difference to his focus.
We have been brilliant & the chances of us not finishing in the top 6 look to be very low, however, the chance of finishing top 2 from where we are, and back to back promotions for a young first time coach, has to be a massive prospect that is in his mind now, despite his wonderful intelligence & level-headedness.
Being in the playoffs against, possibly, Southampton, West Brom & Middlesbrough would be no easy feat, so picking up as many points we can pre-transfer window is crucial.
The back to back draws against Birmingham & Rotherham - and an away draw against any side in the Championship is a point gained really - came about from slow starts, sloppy errors & a lack of really clinical finishing; so I can see where his frustration is coming from here, we allowed for the same thing to happen again when we should have been out the door & up the road.
Having said all that, it's still a great result, a key result after the 2 draws & going into the international break. We got back on track & have gone joint top, keeping an 8 point game to Leeds. They are coming though, make no mistake; their defence has tighted up & their forward options are frightening. Our manager knows this & this interview has actually given me confidence that he will address the areas, front & back, over the break, that need to be addressed ahead of an extraordinarily challenging set of fixtures in the run up to January.

ArnieM added 08:03 - Nov 12
Nomore4. Thank you for your response. I hear what you’re saying, but I feel we are now getting to the point where changes will eventually be made. You are of course correct re Baggott and Axel, but that notwithstanding, these two players are the best CB’s currently at this Club. I know Woolfie has a following amongst fans ( he has improved over the last 12months)), but he isn’t good enough in my humble opinion and I’m sure that once Axel is proving his match fitness over a run of games, he will be the first choice right CB. He showed at Rotherham his power and physical presence and direct attacking build up play. He’s not afraid to tackle and is strong in the tackle both on the ground and in the air. Neither current CB demonstrates this in my view.

Elkan is a monster of a CB talent but is young, but he will probably end up being our best CB since the days of Beattie, Osman, & Butcher. As we approach the Jan window I think McKenna will be wanting to strengthen the defence . For me, ( without Williams in the team) are weak at Right Back, and I could see potentially Edmundson leaving. We have to hope we don’t lose Davis.

In attack, we need, again in my humble view, a more clinical number 9. I like Hirst’s style of play as he brings in a lot of other Town players, and we are lucky the goals are shared out across the team, but we need a more prolific striker in the ranks this season to push for PL.

Taylor’s game yesterday settled my reservations that he would make that step up. He was simply outstanding and shows he had it in his locker- Luongo May now struggle to get back in.

Eeyore added 08:36 - Nov 12
Like every manager, McKenna is very focussed on improvement. Unlike most managers, he is pretty good at making those improvements. Axel is a case in point, a Man U reject who has clearly lost his way. After being a bit sleepy for Rotherham’s 1st goal, he looked prem class for rest of that match. McKenna doesn’t seem to make mistakes on recruitment. Few of us would have been bothered if he had sold Hladky! I am no longer looking at players in the Prem given away by Ipswich because they were not good enough for us. Instead, Everton, Leicester and Leeds are kicking themselves over Broadhead, Hirst and Davis. Despite the success, Ipswich are a frustrating team to watch because of the poor finishing from some players. We only have one striker who is a good finisher (Hirst) and he hasn’t been getting enough chances. He hasn’t got his head to a cross for how long? To maintain a top two spot, or to win the play-offs we will need to recruit another potential prem class striker in Jan. We may fade away if we don’t. The nice thing is that McKenna and the money men above him almost certainly know this.

Linkboy13 added 08:24 - Nov 13
People who are saying Swansea are decent couldn't have been watching the game. Their defence is the poorest ive seen in the championship this season and we let them off the hook.

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