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Preston North End 3 v 2 Ipswich Town
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 3rd February 2024 Kick-off 15:00
McKenna: Preston Still a Difficult Proposition
Friday, 2nd Feb 2024 16:40

Town boss Kieran McKenna says Preston North End, who the Blues meet at Deepdale on Saturday afternoon, remain a difficult proposition, despite falling away after a promising start to the season.

The Lilywhites topped the Championship table in the early stages of the campaign and were third when they met the Blues, who were already in their current position of second, at Portman Road towards the start of October.

However, the Lancastrians are now 12th in the division and have won only one of their last five in the Championship, although that was a 2-1 home defeat of fourth-placed Leeds United on Boxing Day.

At Deepdale this season they have won seven, drawn two and lost five. No one in the division has conceded more goals at home than their 24, the joint-highest alongside local rivals Blackburn Rovers.

Home and away, only two teams in the Championship have conceded more than the 47 they have shipped.

McKenna was asked whether he was surprised that North End had slipped down the table following that impressive start to the season.
“No, I think that's the level of the division, to be honest,” he said. “[Manager] Ryan [Lowe]’s doing a good job. They're having a good, solid season.

“Of course, they started really well and it's always going to be really hard for any team to maintain the position that they were in. That's why you’d think we've had, and deservedly so, a lot of credit for maintaining our form to this point.

“But it's such a competitive division that every game is difficult and, as I see them, they've still got the ingredients that started well and that served them well at the start of the season.

“They're still a really hard-working, aggressive team who impose their physicality well and are aggressive with and without the ball.

“And at home, they're a really difficult proposition as well, so we know we're going to be in for a tough game.”

Now the transfer window is out of the way, McKenna is aiming to maintain the Blues’ automatic promotion challenge in the final 18 games of the campaign.
“We're looking forward to it,” he said. “I think we're past second half now. I don't know what we're in, the third third, maybe. I don't know, we’ve not done the maths.

“But we're really enjoying it. We have to enjoy the last 18 games. We know we've probably already achieved a greater points total than an average newly-promoted team from League One does if we weren't to pick up another point. But, of course, that's not the goal.
“Our ambitions are to play as well as we possibly can for the second half of the season and to pick up as many points as we can, and see where we're at.

“So, we're enjoying it and we have to keep enjoying it, keep playing the way that we want to play, and try to perform as well as we can.”

Having added to his squad, particularly his attacking ranks by adding Kieffer Moore, Ali Al Hamadi and Jeremy Sarmiento during the window, McKenna says his side will now be able to present opposition teams with different problems.

“I think you're always trying to have variety in your playing squad because that helps you have variety in your play, especially your attacking play,” he reflected.

“And I think that's something that we've done well over the last 12 months. As I said, have different ways to threaten teams. 
“With Kieffer, he fits the profile that we felt we needed with George [Hirst]’s loss to add a striker who had some physical presence back to goal and some aerial presence in the box.

“I think you could say a specialist in those areas and a real threat in those areas. My belief is always that we have to adapt to the quality of the players and utilise their best attributes while still staying true to our beliefs about how we want to play and how we want the Ipswich team to look.

“So, with Kieffer, with Jeremy or with Ali especially as forward players, we'll try our very best to set the team up to bring out their best attributes. The three of them certainly bring different attributes to the squad.”

McKenna will probably largely return to the team which drew 1-1 away against leaders Leicester in their most recent Championship match.

Vaclav Hladky will return in goal with Harry Clarke at right-back, Leif Davis at left-back and Luke Woolfenden and George Edmundson the centre-halves.

Skipper Sam Morsy will return in midfield having served his two-mathc ban and is likely to be partnered by Massimo Luongo.

In the three ahead of them, Conor Chaplin will almost certainly continue in the middle with Wes Burns to his right and Marcus Harness perhaps again getting the nod on the left, although Sarmiento may well have done enough with his recent performances to put himself in the frame for a full league debut for the Blues.

Moore, on loan from AFC Bournemouth, is likely to be handed his second Town debut but his first start for the club, seven years after initially signing for the Blues from Forest Green Rovers. Fellow new signing Al-Hamadi is likely to play a part from the bench.

Preston will have centre-half Jack Whatmough back in the squad, having missed four games due to a knee problem, along with midfielder Ali McCann, who returns having been unwell.

But striker Ched Evans is again absent with a hamstring injury, while young defender Kian Best is sidelined having rolled his ankle.

Historically, the Lancastrians just have the edge, Town having won 13 games (12 in the league) between the sides while Preston have been victorious on 14 (12) occasions and 11 (10) matches have ended in draws.

The sides met at Portman Road in October when Town went into the international break second in the Championship following a 4-2 victory over third-placed Preston, who they then led by eight points.

Chaplin gave the Blues the lead in the 18th minute, before Mads Frøkjær levelled for the visitors nine minutes later.

Brandon Williams made it 2-1 with a brilliant solo goal and Broadhead netted a third in first-half injury time.

Town made a slow start to the second half and Lilywhites’ sub Ben Whiteman pulled a goal back on 52 but Kayden Jackson sealed Town’s ninth win of the season 12 minutes from time as all five subs combined.

The teams last met at Deepdale in pre-season in a friendly when goals from Chaplin and Hirst saw the Blues to a 2-1 victory, Felipe Rodriguez-Gentile pulling a goal back for the Lilywhites late on.

The clubs’ last competitive meeting at Deepdale was in April 2019 when Callum Robinson and Lukas Nmecha each scored twice as Preston beat Town 4-0, the already-relegated Blues’ heaviest defeat of that season.

Robinson netted on six and 22 to give the Lilywhites a comfortable half-time lead and Nmecha sealed the Lancastrians’ comprehensive win with his brace in the second half.

The jaded-looking Blues, who never looked like getting anything from the game following a slow start in which Robinson netted the opening goal, went closest to scoring when Kayden Jackson hit the bar in the second half.

Ex-Town striker Keane joined the Lilywhites in the summer having spent a year and a half at Portman Road between January 2019 and May 2021, after initially joining on loan before signing a one-year deal.

The former Manchester United youngster made 28 starts and 13 substitute appearances, scoring nine goals.

Ex-Town keeper Dai Cornell joined the Lilywhites in June 2022 but has made only three appearances this season. The Welshman made 15 starts for the Blues in his only season at the club, 2020/21.

Saturday’s referee is Graham Scott from Oxfordshire, who has shown 64 yellow cards and three red in 14 games so far this season.

Scott’s last Town match was the 2-2 draw at Rotherham in November when he booked Morsy and one Millers player.

His previous Blues game came way back in the final Championship fixture of the 2014/15 season at Blackburn when the Blues were beaten 3-2 but still made the play-offs.

Scott yellow-carded Cole Skuse and Jay Tabb that day and awarded the Blues a penalty, which was dispatched by Daryl Murphy, after Teddy Bishop had been felled by Tommy Spurr. At the other end, Rovers had a decent call dismissed after Tyrone Mings tripped Adam Henley.

Prior to that, Scott was in charge of the 1-0 FA Cup replay defeat to Southampton at Portman Road in January 2015 in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.

He also refereed the 2-1 home victory over Doncaster in April 2014, cautioning Christophe Berra and three of the visitors.

Earlier that season, Scott was the man in the middle for the 1-0 home loss to Burnley, again not using his cards throughout the 90 minutes.

The previous season, he took control of the 2-0 home loss to Wolves, booking two of the Midlanders and Michael Chopra.

In August 2011, in his first Town match, he sent off both Lee Martin and Tommy Smith - the first time Town had ever had two players red-carded in the same match - as the Blues were hammered 7-1 at Peterborough, also booking Damien Delaney, Grant Leadbitter and two Posh players.

Squad from: Hladky, Walton, Clarke, Davis, Humphreys, Tuanzebe, Woolfenden, Edmundson, Morsy, Travis, Luongo, Ball, Burns, Chaplin, Broadhead, Harness, Aluko, Hutchinson, Sarmiento, Moore, Al-Hamadi, Jackson.

Photo: TWTD

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IpswichT62OldBoy added 16:55 - Feb 2
Looking forward to this one.

SoCalTownFan added 18:25 - Feb 2
My suggestion is that every time we attack, when we get to the edge of the opposition penalty area, we should start passing it laterally until all their team can get behind the ball. Under no circumstance, run into the penalty area and try and take on a defender or shoot (try and shoot by all means but 100% of the time it will be blocked by one of the 10 defenders standing in front).
When the players runs out of ideas, start passing it backwards until eventually it gets to Hdalky, at which point their attacker can try and tackle him and we can risk giving away a goal.

This is working REALLY well at the moment, since this apparently became our go to approach to not winning any games.

Nomore4 added 19:19 - Feb 2
Liam Millar is the danger….Stop him, you stop PNE.

Steve_ITFC_Sweden added 06:35 - Feb 3
SoCalTownFan: While you (deliberately?) over-state it, your analysis has an element of truth about it. Several Town fans have expressed frustration that we don't shoot more. But with the new additions, I hope and think we can look forward to a more direct approach in attack. Now at least, even if we can't get through the packed defence, we have someone to aim at if we lob the ball into the mix and who knows where the ball will drop after that. Looking forward to seeing how we develop with our upgraded offensive play.

Hunterblue added 07:49 - Feb 3
SoCalTownFan you seem not to understand KM’s method of playing. It is based on ball retention as much as possible and not giving it away by having rash shot when there is no possibility of scoring so,contrary to what you say, instead of ‘running’ out of ideas’ and having a wasted shot they recycle the ball and possibly come back with another ‘idea’ rather than just give the ball to the opposition. Of course this has an element of risk and the players need to be brave to pull out the opposition to make space in behind but KM has stated this many times. The new players added this window look to be an attempt to try and unlock packed defences.

warktheline added 10:03 - Feb 3
There’s no doubting McKenna has overachieved in regards to current league position and points tally. The biggest factor now is how quickly will these new additions adapt and perform in the near future! Additionally there’s a couple of players that will need to regain the standard of performances they were producing until recently. If McKenna manages to gel these key factors positively we’ve got a chance of automatic promotion, but that’s a massive ask! A play off spot is already guaranteed, which in itself is an outstanding achievement! Anything better will be ‘miraculous’ considering the resources of Leicester, Leeds and Southampton! A very exciting two months ahead!

RedDust added 10:21 - Feb 3
Hunterblue. My only question over our tactics is that crosses into the box seem to be exempt from the statistics of giving the ball away, never is it seen as a waist to square the ball in when we only have 1 recognised striker in the box against maybe 3 defenders. On the other hand shots out of the box or even through balls for the striker to run in behind the defence seem to be few and far between because of their success rate which is sure would be to our crossing conversions.

Saxonblue74 added 10:58 - Feb 3
Feels like a very important game today, as does WBA next week. 2 good results coupled with our new additions could really reignite things.

MK1 added 11:24 - Feb 3
Big, big moments in our promotion push over the next 2 games. Win them both and we are looking good for promotion I reckon. Momentum swings back with us.

Marinersnose added 11:45 - Feb 3
McKenna hasn’t overachieved but his players certainly have. He has now added some more quality to the squad which will give us several different attacking options. Moore is a very good player with his back to goal but he’s also a potent finisher and a real aerial threat. Sarmiento Hutchinson and Ali offer real pace and a direct threat and maybe important either from the bench when teams are tired or starting. Three points at Deepdale today.

Linkboy13 added 11:47 - Feb 3
Will be interesting to see what team McKenna picks today as he likes to give time for new players to bed in. I think he has to play Moore up front as we are so weak in that department.

IpswichT62OldBoy added 12:08 - Feb 3
Great to have a 3.00pm Saturday kick-off

Ebantiass added 12:16 - Feb 3
Great news with the new signings, it's exactly what we wanted and needed. Moore should start imho and later Jacksons pace or the former Wimbledon striker could come on.
Great to have the skipper back he will add a little steel to the midfield. Keep it tight at the back and we are in with a chance.

Nomore4 added 14:13 - Feb 3
Jackson start laugh my a@@@ off

Nomore4 added 14:15 - Feb 3
Just gone through the most important transfer window in 10 years…and Jacko to lead the line

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