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McKenna: It Was a Bit of a Wild Game, Wasn't it?
Tuesday, 20th Feb 2024 23:16

Town boss Kieran McKenna admitted his tired side didn’t play well as they defeated bottom club Rotherham United 4-3 at Portman Road, but praised his team for once again finding a way to win, Omari Hutchinson smashing in the winner in the fifth minute of injury time, a minute after the Millers had levelled from the penalty spot.

The win takes the Blues up to third in the table, behind second-placed Leeds on goal difference alone.

“It was a bit of a wild game, wasn’t it?” McKenna said. “We didn’t manage to get the control we would have wanted to get in the game.

“Of course, it wasn’t a good start and from that moment you’d say we probably never regained our composure in the game.

“But having said that, we’ve scored four goals at home, we’ve found a way to win the game.

“Every game in the Championship is tough, I knew it was going to be a tough game and the players have found a way to come out on top again and credit to them for that.”

Regarding the penalty, given for an alleged foul by Kayden Jackson on Peter Kioso, McKenna felt the decision was harsh on first viewing and was asked at that point whether he felt it was an opportunity missed with the Saints having lost 2-1 at home to Hull City.

“I didn’t think it was on the sideline but I haven’t seen it [again], to be fair,” McKenna said. “I thought it was soft at the time but I haven’t seen it closer up, so the referee [Keith Stroud] has a better view than me.

“Not a major opportunity missed,“ he reflected. “I felt like it was coming in terms of the flow of the game. We weren’t managing to keep control of the ball, we were pinned into our box and random things can happen at that point.

“Having said that, I didn’t think we had many chances against us, the two goals were just individual errors and a penalty which wasn’t really a dangerous situation, so I didn’t think we had many chances against us.

“But we didn’t have the game where we wanted it and when you defend in your box in the way that we were for the last 10 or 20 minutes, then there’s always a chance something can fall the wrong way and they got the penalty, you thought it was going to be one of those nights.

“But again, credit to the players, it would be easy just to lie on the floor at that moment at 3-3 and give up on the game or maybe even come under pressure against your goal because they’ve got all the momentum of coming back from 3-1.

“But we found the spirit to win the ball back, launch another attack and produce a moment of real quality to go and win the game.”

Quizzed on how significant the result could be going forward, McKenna said: “In terms of the points totals, who knows where we end up. For me, it feels more like there are lessons to be learnt tonight for everyone, if I’m honest.

“There are 13 games left, one of the big messages coming into tonight was that we need to keep tension out of the stadium, out of the performance. We knew it was a different type of game tonight, a game where people are coming expecting us to win.

“And that creates a different type of atmosphere, but we knew it was going to be a tough game. Rotherham have taken points off of Leeds, they took points off Southampton, it’s not that long ago they were much better placed than us.

“I haven’t done the maths, but they have a lot of Championship experience and quality in their team, so we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game.

“More so than the points, of course the points are much appreciated, every point in the league is hard-fought, so to get three tonight is really, really nice, but I think it’s taking the lessons from the performance.

“There’s such a long way to go in the season and we can’t afford to let the tension come into the game that there was.

“We got off to the worst possible start, we conceded a really poor goal with individual errors in there.

“But that’s football. We’ve got a young team, we’ve got a young backline, we’ve got a lot of players playing their first season of Championship football and certainly competing at the top of Championship football, so we’re going to make mistakes.

“From there, we have to do better in terms of keeping the tension out of the game, out of the atmosphere, out of everything.

“I know it’s not easy but we have to try our very utmost to, as I’ve said all along, just keep enjoying the challenges and enjoy the games ahead of us, enjoy the experience, enjoy the season that we’re having and perform as well as we can.

“We didn’t manage to do that tonight. Thankfully we found the spirit to still come out with a result, but I think going into the next games, we need to do our utmost to try and get back to that.”

McKenna felt his team showed signs of fatigue in the second half with games having come thick and fast.

“No doubt about it, the third game in seven days, we played Wednesday night at Millwall, Wednesday-Saturday-Tuesday is tough and two tough away games in there and playing on a very, very muddy pitch on Saturday night,” he said.

“There was definitely a tiredness element to the second half and especially when the flow of the game goes as it does.

“Again, we found a way. I can’t fault the effort, we didn’t play well, but I can’t fault the effort, we defended and saw off a lot of set plays. The players give a lot of effort to the game under a lot of fatigue and under difficult circumstances and we found a way to get the three points.”

The late goal was hardly the first time his team have shown their comeback credentials this season.

“Massive credit deserved,” he added. “Even in the first half, from a defensive point of view, I don’t think we ever really regained our composure after the first goal, but from an attacking point of view, we’ve gone and scored three goals and we could have had four or five. Every time we got the ball, we looked a threat.

“Of course, that was part of the strategy. Rotherham went man-to-man over the pitch, that usually tends to make it a really scrappy and physical game, but you know if you can get one second ball, one connection, secure one ball, then you’ve almost got a one-v-one, and the first half felt like that.

“To concede so early and to be 3-1 up at half-time was a big credit. I actually thought we regained our composure at half-time pretty well, I thought the start of the second half was fine, thought we got good control of the game again.

“But then we made an error for the second goal and then it’s a really, really tense last 20 minutes, but again, they’ve found a way at 3-3.

“It doesn’t happen by accident and I think this group of players deserve enormous credit.”

Skipper Sam Morsy said earlier in the week that there’s still more to come from the team and McKenna was asked what might be preventing them from hitting those levels.

“I don’t think it was meant in that way,” he said. “I think more so that we’re integrating new players into the team.

“The centre forward position is really important for us and we’ve lost the centre forward who played almost every game in the calendar year of 2023 [George Hirst] and we’re integrating a new striker into the team.

“We’re integrating Ali [Al-Hamadi] and Lewis [Travis] and Jeremy [Sarmiento] as well, and that takes time.

“I think that’s just a natural process and also a big bit of culture is to keep believing that we can improve, we can keep performing and we can always get better.

“Again, I think the level of performances individually and collectively deserve enormous credit, but I really like Samy’s sentiment in terms of striving to be better and striving to keep improving individually and as a team.”

McKenna was asked if that was also a statement to Leeds and Southampton, Town’s rivals for the automatic promotion spot.

“No, it definitely won’t have been a statement to anyone else,” McKenna smiled. “It’s the things we speak about every day, the things we speak about after games like today. It’s things we’ll speak about tomorrow. It’s the messages we try and spread every day.

“When you get those messages reflected back to you by the playing group and by the captain, that’s always a big positive.”

Right-back Harry Clarke came off with a knock in the second half and McKenna says he’s not sure the severity of the problem: “An impact injury on his leg. I’ve not had a run through on it yet.”

Striker Kieffer Moore, who netted his first Portman Road goal against his former loan club, was also feeling an injury in the first half but was able to carry on.

“He took a couple of big knocks, I think he took a knock on his knee, but I’ve not spoken to him after the game,” McKenna said.

“He carried on through the game, I’m not sure he was 100 per cent, but he gave us his all as he does and we’ll see how he recovers in the next few games.”

Photo: TWTD

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itfcskayman added 23:26 - Feb 20
Hladky, Clarke and Woolfy were half asleep all game. Really bizarre game of football. Rotherham unlucky not to get a point. Lessons to be learned and McKenna is the man to teach them.

bluesman added 23:53 - Feb 20
It was a crazy game. Ref really poor too, we felt like he’d lost control several time

MidlandsBlue92 added 00:04 - Feb 21
Far from our best, but still 3 points. Biggest message in this is the importance of the crowd - stop moaning when we lose a ball, play short passes at the back, or a player makes a mistake. It creates an atmosphere that hurries players into making bad decisions.

ipswichboi added 00:05 - Feb 21
Enough said. Bank those 3 and get ready for the next one.

ipswichboi added 00:08 - Feb 21
Agree Midlands. I was very comfortable 1st half, even in the 2nd half after they scored I personally felt fine and as though we had it under control, but I could feel a lot of agitation and stress around me (upper north) which 100% fed into the players. Atmosphere was almost non existent at the start of the 2nd half whereas I think with some more encouragement the chaps would likely have pressed on a bit more and probably killed the game off.

ArnieM added 00:17 - Feb 21
Absolutely sh 2 t defending again. Two CB’s needed in the summer, to play alongside Burgess . The other CBs get rid because they’re not good enough.

Ipswich1977 added 00:44 - Feb 21
Not a good game by any mesns.

Wolfenden really not up to the task of defending at this level. Really do want him to do well but he constantly makes costly errors.

MVBlue added 00:50 - Feb 21
Kierans going to ring the changes in that backline in the summer. But well done on getting the results Blues.

KiwiBlue2 added 01:48 - Feb 21
The three points and Saints losing were the big things tonight. I am sure that we will front up on Saturday for another 3 points which would put us back in second spot if the Foxes beat Leeds on Friday night. Much to be optimistic about....coyb

bobble added 02:27 - Feb 21
saints were more tired than us...

Suffolkboy added 02:44 - Feb 21
KM ,the voice of experience, of reason , of measured assessment and reassuring analysis . It’s easy to allow emotional involvement to turn into the negative ,but a slide towards despair is not the Ipswich way !
Onwards to Saturday , marvelling at the essential ‘never say die’ approach and giving some credence to the efforts of opponents to find a way to beat ITFC : not many can !
Wonderful effort boys ! COYB

oldtimer3 added 07:18 - Feb 21
As our fantastic manager said the two away matches took its toll and this game against Rotherham maybe was a bridge to far? But no we won again! Tired legs and minds playing a big part last night! Well done all we have come along way in such a short time. Keep it going lads. Onwards and upwards!

SpiritOfJohn added 08:04 - Feb 21
We defended badly as a team. We are still a bit lightweight when we come up against a physical side like Rotherham. It's not good to read criticism of individual players, but Kieran will know best regarding any changes required for Saturday's game based on form and fitness.
Here is an interesting stat from TWTD player ratings before tonight's game: Woolfenden played 29 games, never subbed, average rating 6.63 and that is higher than Conor Chaplin!

Len_Brennan added 08:09 - Feb 21
Regardless of the overall performance last night, it's 3 points in the bag & 3 wins in a row now, 2 of which were away from home. We have overtaken Southampton, with the same amount of games played & on paper have an easier run in than they do, including having them come to Portman Road - if we're good enough, it is certainly very much still there for us to finish ahead of them. Leeds might be a tougher proposition, but they are also capable of going through a poor patch, so let's take the positives from last night, i.e. 3 good points, & put the strangely off form performance down to a week of travel & a saturated pitch in Swansea. We'll be back at it on Saturday at home to Birmingham.
And also, with Hull & WBA winning difficult games last night, the chances of Norwich making the playoffs are less likely.

Carberry added 08:28 - Feb 21
The point about integration is interesting, I would like to hear McKenna explain it a bit more. He's the kind of manager who needs new players to come to the club early in the Summer window, to work on them and the system, the January window doesn't give him enough time. It does beg the question why more wasn't done to bring players in before the season began?

dirtydingusmagee added 08:50 - Feb 21
MVBlue hope im wrong but i doubt K Mc will be here next season too many Prem clubs will be chasing him . As ive said seriously hope im wrong .

terryf added 12:53 - Feb 21
On the plus side we won and are now third. On the minus side, Clarke worries me positionally sometimes, Woolfies lack of pace worries me. Also thought we were led to believe Tuanzebe was quick. Looked second best most of the time this season and as good a season as Hadlaky has enjoyed does his goalkeeper's manual not cover the need to catch the ball on occasions. Whilst I understand the principle of playing out from the back when you are being pressed man for man sometimes you need to mix it up. I lost count of the number times we got caught out last night. We were second best for most challenges and were sloppy both in and out of possession.
A bad day at the Office and I really do hope that lessons have been learned. Still only probably the second least enjoyable match this season. QPR being the other one!

BurleysGloryDays added 14:01 - Feb 21
How he manages to stay calm and collected after a game like that is beyond me.

He’s the true special one!

Gdunkdafunk added 14:40 - Feb 21
1st goal was embarrassing for this level, thier 2nd is a complete balls up by Victor (who I love as our keeper but he missed that by miles) & 3rd one an iffy pen. Its not really the number it's that we were stuck in our half for 20 odd mins, trying to 'pass it out' & failing, adding to pressure on the defence that is unessesary. That is what irks me, we handed WB a goal the other week, same with Preston & again last night. Sometimes foot thru the ball & give up possession is tactically the best choice!


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