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McKenna: A Really Solid Performance in All Phases
Saturday, 2nd Mar 2024 18:25

Town boss Kieran McKenna felt the Blues’ display as they defeated Plymouth Argyle 2-0 at Home Park to return to second in the Championship was a “solid performance in all phases”.

An Brendan Galloway own goal and Kieffer Moore’s fifth for the club since re-signing on loan in January saw Town to five wins on the trot in the Championship for the first time since 2003.

“A really solid performance in all phases,” McKenna said. “I thought our organisation was good, our discipline was good, we were really competitive, came out on top of more than our fair share of challenges and gave ourselves a really good foothold in the game in the first half.

“We knew it was difficult, we knew we were going to have to stand up to a really strong home atmosphere and we had to stand up in difficult conditions, weather and pitch-wise.

“But we did that really well and that gave us a really good platform at half-time to know that we would and we could really push on in the second half if we kept doing the right things, kept limiting their threats.

“We knew the chances would come our way, we managed to take a couple and deliver a really good second-half performance.

“We probably haven’t had too many games like today. It was quite stop-start, I thought Plymouth played quite closed with all their kicks and stuff like that.

“We always back our fitness, back our style to come out in the game at some point. It wasn’t easy to bring it out in the first half, although we still had a couple of good build-ups through the pitch but it wasn’t easy to get control or rhythm in the game.

“But usually we’ll find a period at some point in the game and we really felt confident at half-time that that would come in the second half and we managed to do that.

“Of course, the goal takes a really good deflection, but I thought up until that point we were really starting to put pressure on the penalty area on their goal and it felt like the goal was coming.”

Reflecting further on the second half, he added: “It was hard to get rhythm in the game, for sure. There were lots of stoppages, lots of free-kicks, some of them rightly so, some of them a little bit soft.

“The opposition were setting up a lot of things longer as well when there were goal-kicks and stoppages, so that takes longer when the other team’s stopping play, so it was a really broken first half.

“Today, in conditions like this, that wasn’t a big issue because we felt like the game would settle and a big priority was being really solid in the early bits of the game and giving ourselves a good platform.

“We prefer when they game’s open and we can get rhythm to it but it’s not always going to be that way and sometimes there are things you can do better and sometimes it’s the opposition and sometimes it’s just the flow of the game.

“But we usually know that the game will find rhythm and flow at some point and we started to find some passages like that in the second half we really grew in those phases.”

Asked whether Chaplin is claiming what would be his 12th goal of the season, Galloway having deflected his shot - which looked to be going wide - into the net, McKenna laughed: “I’m sure he will! He probably wants all footage from different angles to be raised and I think he deserved the goal.”

Even if Chaplin doesn’t get the goal, he took his assists tally to seven in the Championship this season, playing a role in Moore’s second goal.

“A really good header, it shouldn’t be downplayed,” McKenna added. “Cameron Burgess does terrific to keep it alive and a typical bit of cleverness from Conor in the box.

“He knows where the goal is, he knows where everybody is, he knows where the defenders are, he’s got fantastic pictures in his head and it was a really clever back-flicked header for Kieffer, who hits the ball really well.

“It was a great strike. That’s Kieffer, he’s a really good finisher, left foot and right foot and, of course, headers as well as is well-publicised, but left foot and right foot, he can hit the ball with power an accuracy and he did that for the goal.”

Midfielder Massimo Luongo missed out having been taken ill yesterday, McKenna confirmed.

“Massimo is ill and missed training yesterday with illness,” he said. “So he’s at home recovering, so we’ll have to see how he recovers.

“Credit to the other players to step into the team again. Three starters out of the team [Nathan Broadhead and Wes Burns due to injury in addition to Luongo] from last week that played really well, but other boys came into the team and made their contributions straight away.”

McKenna was again pleased with the role his subs played, as well as those who took over from the three absent from the XI.

“The boys who came into the team did really well and I thought the players who came off the bench did really well as well,” he added.

“I just mentioned in the dressing room, I thought Marcus Harness was excellent when he came on, I have to say, whether it was 25 minutes or 30 minutes probably with extra-time.

“Every tackle he was there, every second ball he was there. He secured the ball, he got turned when he could turn and those things can’t be taken for granted because the game’s very, very open at that point and if you have a substitute who comes and who isn’t fully prepared, then it can cost you.

“But Marcus came on and had a really good impact in the game and the other subs came on and helped us see the game out, and also keep carrying a threat as well.

“Of course, losing the boys we’ve lost from the squad today and at the moment with the other long-term injuries as well, is difficult but we’re still carrying good numbers and, more importantly, really good professionals and good people, who are all fully committed to the cause.”

The Blues manager was also pleased with the way his team saw the match out once they were in front, something which he says has improved over the last year.

“We’re managing those phases of the game really well and that’s enjoyable, pleasing and you see the growth in the group, really,” he reflected. “This was probably an issue for us, maybe not this time last year, but a little bit earlier.

“It was an issue for us at Plymouth last year, we came away here, we were 1-0 up and we gave a goal away and the stadium went mad and we weren’t able to regain control of the game and manage the game well. That was an issue for us at times last year, especially in the early parts of the season.

“But a lot of the boys have now been through those experiences. You have to go through those experiences sometimes to learn how to manage situations better and we’re certainly doing that better this season better this season in general.

“We did that better today and we certainly won’t rest on it, but I think you can see the experience, the growing maturity in the group, both from the senior players and the younger players.”

The win saw the Blues move back to second, now only three points behind leaders Leicester, the Foxes having lost 2-1 at home to QPR and Leeds, now third, having drawn 1-1 at Huddersfield.

Asked if there had been much conversation on those results after the game, McKenna said: “I don’t think so, I’ve not been in the dressing room much and we haven’t had any of those conversations all season, so we’re not going to start now.

“We’ll just stick on our own path and as simple as it may sound, the only conversation after the game was about Bristol City and knowing that they’re a really tricky opponent away from home when they can counter-attack.

“That’s where our focus will be and we’ll let the supporters enjoy the win and anything else they want to discuss. But our focus will just be on Tuesday night now.”

The victory was the fifth on the spin for the Blues, the first time the club has achieved such a winning run in the Championship since 2003 under Joe Royle.

“That’s brilliant,” McKenna said. “I have to say, and I know I say it all the time, but every win in the Championship is so tough, it takes a lot of preparation, hard work and so many good qualities in your group, so to win in the Championship is tough.

“To win away from home in the Championship is really tough, so to win five times in a row as a newly-promoted team and all those things, to have some tough away games in that spell as well, Millwall and then Swansea and today were probably similar to today in terms of wet days on really heavy pitches.

“Those games are tough to win, so to show that level of consistency is pleasing and we’re going to try our hardest to keep it up.”

Photo: TWTD

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Gforce added 18:30 - Mar 2
With king Keiran at the helm anything is possible this season, keep right on till the end of the road....................

ImAbeliever added 18:52 - Mar 2
The thing about big Joe’s five on the bounce was that it was a massive achievement, and what a great professional. Difference now is that we are on the incline and not the decline, aka Administration. KMcK, my hero.

BurleysGloryDays added 19:01 - Mar 2
Can we just have KMK forever?

WashbrookBlue added 19:07 - Mar 2
The man is totally different gravy and has cut himself apart as a truly “special one” since the minute he walked through our door. Not that he would ever say such an ridiculously egotistical thing, he’d leave that to other self obsessed madmen and just carry on creating a culture and an environment that is exceptional to work in and brings the very best out of everyone. Make no mistake, the man is destined for the very top of the football management pyramid and we should celebrate every game and month that we have him taking us forward. The only shame is that he’s probably not going to be here long enough to have his own statue along the greats…..

GTRKing added 20:08 - Mar 2
Let the players & manager concentrate on the next game!

Us fans can dream of going to the promised land!

11 big games to go

IpswichT62OldBoy added 20:42 - Mar 2
I think he will be with us long enough to get a statue, two promotions on the spin and finish 5th in the Premiership.
Then at least two seasons in Europe.
Maybe Ipswich become the new Man City , us old people remember how good they were back in the day, not.

BuckieBlue added 20:48 - Mar 2
It says a lot about KMc, the players and other staff that we hit our best run of season immediately after coming through our bad run.
Also apart from our strikes today I think the most important goal was Saints late winner- we need them keep on Leeds' coat tails because we may need a favour on final day of season!

Suffolkboy added 20:59 - Mar 2
Wondrous,awesome ,spellbinding — full of impressive work and solidly attention grabbing ! This is Cloud Nine stuff !

bobble added 21:17 - Mar 2
if you consider our injuries we didnt have a bad spell

SpiritOfJohn added 22:13 - Mar 2
Joe Royle did a great job when he won 5 on the spin, turning around a demoralised club into promotion challengers. However, let's not forget that he had a team with a lot of Premier League experience including Matt Holland, Mark Venus, John McGreal, Fabian Wilnis, Jim Magilton, Tommy Miller, Marcus Bent and Jermaine Wright and the upcoming Darren Bent and Pablo Counago. Kieran McKenna has far less Premier League experience at his disposal with most of his squad coming from the Championship and League 1 - with Keiffer Moore a notable exception. That makes McKenna's winning streak even more impressive IMO, and if he could claim back-to-back promotions that would be incredible. However, promotion isn't the be all and end all this season, if we keep Keiran McKenna and keep on improving as we have done over the last two years, we will be in a stronger position to win the Championship next season and further build a squad that is capable of competing at the next level.

BotesdaleBlue added 07:19 - Mar 3
Absolutely spot on SpiritOfJohn.

Saxonblue74 added 08:20 - Mar 3
A big thank you to Maidstone for knocking us out of the FA cup. The fact that Leeds, Southampton (although they scraped through yesterday) and Leicester all stuttered yesterday is no coincidence. An extra mid week game away at Coventry last week would have been an issue for us, particularly with injuries to key players.

MK1 added 11:16 - Mar 3
We have a great squad. All have played their parts. Keep it going lads, we are in touching distance now.

Bazza8564 added 11:33 - Mar 3
I took a massive amount of pride in watching that yesterday. Scrappy, dreadful surface, but we dug in and proved we can win in a variety of ways.

And I totally agree with the sentiments of Ipswich Town old boy 62. Kieran is on a long contract here, i've read hes on around 1m a season, but that will inevitably be much more should he get us to the PL. I truly believe at 37 he wants to make his mark here, he will be looked after and loved, Yes he will get a statue if he continues like this, and in 10 years he will be 47 and just approaching his prime.
He knows theres no hurry.
Similarly, Mark Ashton is 52 ish, if things go to plan this will probably be his last job in football, so again, we could have him for another 10-12 years as well.
People talk all the time about McKenna being ambitious and being tempted to move up. All in good time, hes adored here, he will get a crack at the PL here with luck and then with money, let's see what he can do.
For now, we have a football team that has us believing and a manager who can get more from the whole than the sum of the parts. Just think what he might do with another 4-5 players in the summer......

Linkboy13 added 13:01 - Mar 3
His attention to detail is second to none. He knew we would be one of the fittest teams in the championship so he had the pitch made longer by four metres. Teams then at the end of games start to tire we make substitutions and then score goals late on in games it's not rocket science it's football science this man's a genius.

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