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Preston North End 3 v 2 Ipswich Town
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 3rd February 2024 Kick-off 15:00
McKenna: In the First Half Everything That Could Go Wrong, Did Go Wrong
Saturday, 3rd Feb 2024 18:34

Town boss Kieran McKenna admitted that virtually everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong in the first half of his side’s 3-2 defeat to Preston North End at Deepdale.

The Blues found them 3-0 down at the break, the Lilywhites having been two in front in only the eighth minute via an opener from former Town striker Will Keane on five and a George Edmundson own goal. Keane added his second and the home side’s third six minutes before half-time.

McKenna’s men then staged a second-half fightback with deadline day re-signing Kieffer Moore, who is on loan from AFC Bournemouth, making his second Blues debut from the bench at half-time and scoring twice to give Town hope of another famous comeback. They continued to push in the closing minutes but eventually ran out of time.

“It was a difficult half,” McKenna said when asked to reflect on that first period. “It’s a difficult place to come anyway but when you concede two very unfortunate goals in the first eight or nine minutes, [then it’s harder].

“The first goal was a shot from probably 30 yards, it takes a bit deflection and goes in the corner.

“The second goal is two yards offside, it’s so clear, it can’t not be given by the linesman. I think George [Edmundson] has made an aggressive decision to step up, but the right decision when the striker’s two yards offside. The linesman can’t miss it.

“You’re 2-0 down after eight minutes, it’s the worst situation it can be because Preston can then defend, they can defend their box with a lot of bodies.

“Of course, we lacked a little bit in the final third and our play in the final third wasn’t at the level that we wanted it to be.

“We lacked the profile and the presence in the final third as well but that was exaggerated by the scoreline, that completely dictated the tone and feel of the game. Preston were able to feel like they were doing well in the game because they had the goals.

“A difficult first half. But at half-time, honestly, my feeling was that we were right still in the game. I didn’t think on the balance of play that certain things were too far off but we needed to improve in the final third and we needed to not have anything else go against us.

“We certainly did that in the second and produced a really good performance that I think would have deserved to get something from the game.”

McKenna dismissed any suggestion of a hangover following last week’s FA Cup exit to National League South Maidstone.

“No, I honestly don’t think it is,” he insisted. “We weren’t ourselves and, of course, the goals we need to own and look at, but the second goal for me is officiating. The first goal is a large, large chunk of misfortune, but we can still do better on our blocking technique.

“I think when you’re 2-0 down away to Preston with the type of team we are with the profile of players we had on the pitch, it’s always going to be a difficult half.”

Regarding double goalscorer Moore, who found the net for the first time in a Town shirt seven years after initially signing, having made 11 sub appearances during his previous spell at the club, McKenna said: “He showed straight away what we’ve been missing, to be fair, probably since George [Hirst] has been out in terms of a physical profile in the top line that creates space for others and also gives us a target in the box to play into or to cross to.

“And his impact was there for all to see. He was excellent and it gives us something to really build on next week.”

The Blues boss says he didn’t consider starting the on-loan AFC Bournemouth man, who only joined the club on Thursday afternoon ahead of that evening’s deadline or making changes in the first half, despite the scoreline.

“Not really, to be honest,” he said. “You can always take the gamble but I don’t think it would have been the right thing to do. He hadn’t trained with the group and he’s here for the next 17 games to have an impact, not just for the first half today, so we weren’t overly tempted by that.”

Town’s other new striker signing Ali Al-Hamadi was also lively when he came off the bench in the second half.

“He was, he showed some of his dynamism in the final third and his physicality around the box,” McKenna added.

“Good to get him on the pitch as well and we had so many chances in the second, were such a threat and the supporters behind the goal were fantastic and the only shame was that we weren’t able to get the next goal.”

This Town side has shown their spirit to come back in plenty of games under McKenna and this was no exception, even if they fell short on this occasion.

“I think it’s a day where in the first half pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong and we were 3-0 down at a really tough stadium,” he reflected.

“But the players have still produced a really good second half that I think deserved to get something out of the game.

“I think it says a lot. It’s disappointing not to get the win, we’ve not had as many wins lately as we would like but we’ve not lost many games.

“We are competitive every week, the group keeps fighting to the end of every game and those qualities will stand us in good stead and we’ll continue to work and come back stronger when things don’t go our way.”

Regarding Preston’s third goal, he added: “We lost a ball on build-up. I’ll fully support the players in that situation because the players involved try to do the right thing, tried to something that’s brought us success over the last two years and we didn’t quite execute it right.

“That’s never a problem with me when our intent’s right, we know the rewards of having a style and a system that we believe in and that we follow and we’ve had the successes from that and we’ll continue to have so.

“Of course, we’ll continue to work on our execution, it wasn’t easy to execute a lot of different things on the pitch today, but that’s football. Over the course of a season these things can happen.

“The time that Vaz [Vaclav Hladky] hooks it clear with his left foot and they head it back down the middle of the pitch and score never gets noticed, but the one where you lose in that situation does.

“We’ll give our full support to the players in that situation and we’ll just continue to work to get better.

“Of course, in the second half, we have the option to go over the press as well, which is important for us and is something that we like to do and we were able to utilise that well.

“We’ll continue to work on all phases in the game and on build-up continue to try and be very, very good at combining out of those situations, but also now have the option to go over the top of the pressers in those situations and find different types of attacks.”

The result sees the Blues drop to fourth but as was the case when Town were second, McKenna says he’s taking little notice of the table.

“There’s 46 games, that’s the fourth game that we’ve lost in the league this year, that’s a fantastic effort,” he said.

“We know it’s not all going to be sunny days. There are teams around us with fantastic squads in incredible form and if we use up all our energy, or any of our energy really, focusing on them and the runs that they’re on, then we won’t have the required energy to be competitive every week, which we generally have been.

“Today, we weren’t in the first half, it didn’t go the way that we wanted but over the course of 90 minutes in a tough stadium where they’ve taken points and performances from all the other teams at the top of the league as well, we still managed to produce over the course of 90 minutes a lot of good things.”

The Town manager is pleased to have a full week on the training field with his squad and particularly last week’s new signings before fifth-placed West Brom visit Portman Road next Saturday.

“For sure,” the Northern Irishman said. “Of course, we had the week this week but it’s a week with so much uncertainty and until four o’clock on Thursday we weren’t sure if another striker would be in the door and whether Kieffer would be in the door, there was a lot of uncertainty around that.

“Ali, as I said, hasn’t trained with the group really yet, so it will be nice now to have a full week to be able to get some training time with those boys, to look at the ways that we can integrate them into our playing style and what they can add to us and prepare and look forward to a really good game now next weekend.”

Photo: TWTD

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carlo88 added 18:38 - Feb 3
No matter how bad I'm feeling after a defeat I always feel better after KM's comments. He just talks sense.

tetchris added 18:40 - Feb 3
Don’t see the point of keeping Jackson after this season

ImAbeliever added 18:46 - Feb 3
Thank you KMcK for putting that into conte text, Ielie e.

ImAbeliever added 18:47 - Feb 3
I believe

1960H added 18:47 - Feb 3
Sorry but you have got to partly blame McKenna for poor selection, if he did not think Moore could last a full game start him then replace him with Al Hamadi rather than start with the ever useless and ineffective Jackson, we move on let's get it right next week COYB

itfcskayman added 19:01 - Feb 3
The only positive today was how much of a handful Kieffer Moore was. Every ball into the box looked like something could happen. Defenders and goalkeepers nightmare. We HAVE to utilise him until the end of the season

IpswichT62OldBoy added 19:07 - Feb 3
That is the nearest we will ever see to K McK loosing it and ranting at a linesman for not doing his job.
I love his controlled hyper-passion.
Other managers would have lost it and been red carded for an understandable response to ineptitude.
He contains and channels it.

ArnieM added 19:11 - Feb 3
We move on …..


blueboy1981 added 19:22 - Feb 3
Let’s see how the next Game pans out - Shall We ? - and the one after ?
Hopefully better in terms of results than recent !

ArnieM added 19:24 - Feb 3
I’m really looking forward to seeing his McKenna utilises Moore snd Al- Hamada …

Bert added 20:03 - Feb 3
A little hint that we will mix things up a bit. This time last year we had virtually given up automatic promotion so a repeat performance of what we then achieved would be rather nice. Wishful thinking perhaps but if a good run coincides with Leeds and Southampton having blips who knows what could happen with a hardened defence and Moore working well with Chaplin and others. Keep hoping.

blues1 added 20:15 - Feb 3
1960H. Nothing to do with whether Moore could last90 minutes or not. It was down to the fact he only signed on Thursday and hadn't trained with the team. There's likely not any manager who would start a player in that situation. So no, o blame on Mckenna whatsoever. Besides, would Moore starting have made any difference to the early goals conceded?

KMcBlue added 20:19 - Feb 3
I can't put my finger on it, nor do I want to single anyone out but our defence lacks solidity, and has all season to be fair. Forgivable when you look ominous going forward and averaging 3 goals a game....

Sefton_Blue added 20:28 - Feb 3
I’m sorry to say this, but the first half performance wasn’t acceptable to me. There was no passion, no aggression, no thought to our play and no fight. Teams have wised up to how we play out from the back and Preston man marked Morsy today from getgo. We struggled to get out of our half yet continued to do the same thing time and time again.

The second half performance was everything the first half performance wasn’t. I know we had Moore on as a sub and we could use him as a target man, but we did everything quickly and we fought like tigers. Moore looked a real real handful and if he wasn’t fit enough to start, he’s only going to improve

1960H added 20:33 - Feb 3
Blues 1, if you read my post I stated that Moore could have been subbed if he was struggling ,I get that neither of our two new additions have had much time to train with the team, given that we are struggling to score at the moment why not give them a try from the start? Either of them could not do worse than Jackson in my opinion, been with us five years and I can only think of a few good games that he has had, can't fault his effort or attitude but simply not good enough, hey ho it's all about opinions, I think McKenna has been fantastic for us but we are all human and can make mistakes

TimmyH added 20:42 - Feb 3
We've heard that phrase a number of times the last month or's up to McK, the players and solid training to eradicate mistakes.

Gforce added 20:53 - Feb 3
Mckenna again showing more integrity and honesty, than probably any other manager in the country.

MickMillsTash added 22:44 - Feb 3
Jackson should have come off after 30
Clarke played the Preston player on for the second

Carberry added 23:09 - Feb 3
Your logic, blues1, says Moore shouldn't have played at all.

Jugsy added 23:16 - Feb 3
Strong words, Sefton Blue. First half not acceptable to you? No passion? I reckon you’re one of the boo boys. Get behind the team, we’re not going to win every game and we’re punching above our weight class - no need to knock them when they drop a ricket.

1960H, I reckon you must be Pep in disguise with the managerial genius like you’ve just shared on here.

Both of you started posts with ‘sorry but’… I’m sorry you can’t take a loss on the chin and enjoy what has been achieved under this regime. Just relax, enjoy the ride and get behind the boys.

Suffolkboy added 23:18 - Feb 3
K M is admirable in his controlled analysis ,and of course right to defend his players and their efforts — to play always the way he wants !BUT there is a need for intelligent thinking and the exercise of choice ; where threats are obvious then sometimes the immediate clearance simply to safely but time for recovery and reshaping is ESSENTIAL.
It doesn’t appear VH was at all switched on to the options,and sold the defence very short !
KM has however covered ,with careful use of language, the weaknesses and forecast how ITFC will increase the variety of pass and systems with the latest additions bringing great options !

jas0999 added 23:19 - Feb 3
Rubbish! If we wanted to challenge for a play off place on league one, Jackson was the right choice. Sadly, not the case. Poor selections today. Lucky if we get play offs.

bobble added 23:51 - Feb 3
jackson ...we buy 2 new but play him.....?

ArchiRob added 00:44 - Feb 4
Hindsight is a brilliant gift- I have no doubt if Moore had started we would have won that game comfortably, I would also have started with Sami, but that was his worse performance by far so who knows? Kieryn addressed the issues at half time - but maybe should have been sooner.?

PhuketPete added 01:08 - Feb 4
Some blame Jackson for a bad first half and suggest Moore would have changed things - but truth is the whole team were off it in the first half. The ball was bouncing around out of control. None of our passes came off. We gifted the ball away so many times. We seldom got near their box and looked inept. That said without a cruel deflection and a clear offside, we may have gone in level at the break.

The second half however was Town at our best. I thought Sam was brilliant. Kiefer gave us the presence we needed up front but surely the key was that we were in control of the ball thru-out the pitch and were thus able to get balls into the final third. Ali was then also a plus and he was a bit unlucky not to grab the second for himself.

If we replicate the second half from here on we can still finish top 2

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