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McKenna: We Didn't Hit Our Usual Levels
Saturday, 6th Apr 2024 16:26

Town boss Kieran McKenna admitted his side didn’t come anywhere near to the level they have hit in earlier games or in Monday’s dramatic 3-2 victory over Southampton in this afternoon’s disappointing 1-0 derby defeat at Norwich City, a match which he didn’t feel was of a particularly high level.

Marcelino Nunez’s 39th-minute free-kick proved the winner with the Blues never showing the form which has taken them into the automatic promotion places.

“I didn’t think it was our best performance by any means,” McKenna said. “We didn’t hit the level that we would have hoped to in a game that I didn’t think was a very high level, to be honest.

“I didn’t think it was a high level game, I didn’t think it was anywhere near the level that we played earlier in the season [against Norwich] or the game on Monday, or so many of the games we’ve played this year.

“We wanted to perform better and create more chances but we didn’t manage to do that today.

“Then the game’s tight, I thought really it was just a spell in the first half of set plays and decisions that went against us and that culminated with them scoring a free-kick from 30 yards, which decides the game.

“In tight games when neither team I feel is hitting the level they’ve hit in recent weeks or recent months, it’s often decided by tight margins and that can often be a set play goal, and that was the case today.”

Asked whether he had any argument with the foul given against skipper Sam Morsy which led to the goal, McKenna had more of an issue with an earlier decision against Axel Tuanzebe when the defender was adjudged to have brought down Josh Sargent just outside the box.

“The biggest one for me was the free-kick against Tuanzebe, that was the more frustrating one because we had a really comfortable first 20 minutes of the game,” he recalled.

“We were in control, we weren’t hitting a fantastic level but the atmosphere was pretty quiet, we were comfortable, we hadn’t given anything away, we were in a decent place in the game.

“And that decision, which I thought was an incorrect one, really lit the crowd, lit the atmosphere and we then had 10 minutes of set play after set play, we couldn’t quite get out of that phase.

“There were one or two other decisions within that phase which were soft as well and that culminated in the decision for the goal against Samy, which was a very, very marginal one.

“I didn’t think the one on Tuanzebe was anywhere near marginal from where I was and the fourth official had the same view as me and the linesman had a better view than anybody.

“Disappointed the right decision wasn’t reached there and I felt that did have an impact on the game and that was the only part of the game either team dominated.

“But, taking away from that, our focus, as it always will be, will be on ourselves. We’ve got some really good games coming up. We’re coming off the back of a busy run of games and our focus will always be on the next game, trying to perform as well as we can.

“And, of course, looking at today and why didn’t quite hit the levels that we’d hoped to and trying to prepare to deliver a good performance on Wednesday night against Watford.”

Quizzed on why his team didn’t hit their usual levels, whether it was the number of recent games, the emotions from Monday’s last-gasp victory over Southampton or the illness which has affected a number of players over the last fortnight, McKenna said: “Probably a multitude of those things, to be honest.

“It’s the third game in a busy week, we really went to the wire in the two previous games, so those that have played both of those games, I’m sure there is a little element of that.

“I don’t think we managed to find our intensity, definitely. From a physical point of view, possibly the schedule. We’ve got some players, I’m not going to make an issue, but there are some physical issues in the camp, illness and injury, so that would have been a factor.

“And also it’s a really big game in reality with a big atmosphere and sometimes that can drain the battery a little bit as well.

“That possibly could have been the case in the first half, but that’s something that we will be stronger for. This is still a big progression for an awful lot of this group. We’ll be stronger for all these experiences. Even the ones that are bad experiences like today, we’ll be stronger for it.

“We know we’ve got tough games coming up and that’s the job now is to make sure we come out of this disappointing game, this bad result with lessons learned and go into the next game stronger.”

Striker Kieffer Moore was a concern going into the game with a back problem he suffered on Monday but McKenna says in the end there was little doubt the Wales international would play.

“He had good confidence in the end, to be honest,” he said. “Tuesday, Wednesday, he was really, really stiff and it didn’t look like it would be possible, but with a spasm it can ease up.

“Credit to the medical team, to be fair. He made good progress Thursday evening, Friday and he felt good to start and there was no risk attached to it, they felt.

“He was fine, we didn’t want to take him to 90-plus minutes today because we have lots of important games coming up and our season certainly doesn’t end today. He came through the game fine and that’s a big positive.”

McKenna had expected one or two twists and turns before the end of the season with the Blues now having back-to-back home games against Watford and Middlesbrough on Wednesday and Saturday.

“It’s great to have two home games and the schedule has been and is so busy,” he reflected. “We know from the league table that our last three away games are against Norwich, Coventry and Hull, the teams sixth, seventh and eighth, so we know the games are going to be a big challenge.

“It’s not a situation where we can go into it and think that we’re going to win every single game of the six before today or now the last five. We know it’s unlikely to be as smooth as that and all we can control is our effort and try and control as much of the performance as we can.

“If we’d have won today, it would have been a fantastic win to give the supporters, and that was the big motivation, but pretty soon after the game it would have been about mindset and bodies getting ready for Wednesday night.

“And if we’d have drawn today it would have been the same and unfortunately we were on the end of a loss. But it’s the same. Let’s deal with each game individually and then get ready for the next one and make sure we’re ready to give our best.”

McKenna admits it will be tougher to get over this defeat than others, the Blues having lost only six matches in the league this season and never having been defeated in successive league games since McKenna took charge in December 2021.

“I think that would be human nature,” he said. “I think any defeat in the later stages of the season when you’re working towards something are always a little bit tougher.

“Of course, a derby defeat is tougher, especially because we know what it means to the supporters and the biggest wish was to give them the result.

“But I think for us as professionals, we can’t afford to let that be the case, to be honest. We’ve done well with dealing with setbacks and disappointments before and we have to deal with this one.

“We know that it will hurt a little bit more for the supporters and that causes a little bit more hurt in the group.

“But as a group of players and staff, sticking together, finding the right response in training, finding the right energy for Wednesday night, these are the things that we’ve done really, really well and that’s what we’re going to endeavour to do over the next couple of days.”

McKenna was asked whether it is best to feel those emotions of games like today and Monday or to try to moderate them and stay on a level.

“I understand what you mean,” the Northern Irishman considered. “That’s part about growing as a group. Of course we all want this season to end in a really amazing and brilliant way but we’re trying to grow the team, the football club to the levels that it once was and each step along the way is a lesson that we can take from it.

“Each experience, whether it’s a fantastic one like Monday night or a very disappointing one like Saturday’s is something that we can learn from.

“This is still a group which has come a long way in a short space of time, for lots of individuals this will have been by far the biggest derby match they’ve ever played in and we’ve got some really good ones to come as well.

“Of course, experiencing the highs of Monday and so many other ones that we have, that’s fantastic, it gives you a hunger to have more of those sensations, more of those feelings.

“But also going through emotions like today, and more importantly probably really trying to reflect on what you could have controlled and changed within that, that can make you learn and make you stronger as a group as well.

“It’s not the outcome that we wanted, of course we’d rather be sitting here with a win, but I’m confident we’ll find a good way to take the lessons from this experience.”

Town failed to score for the first time since New Year’s Day at Stoke and McKenna said his side ought to have created more opportunities.

“If I’m honest, I think the spaces were there that we usually exploit really well, I just don’t think our execution in the first half was on the level,” he said.

“I won’t go into too much detail, of course, but the spaces that we look to exploit on the football pitch and the spaces that we’re usually very, very good at exploiting, I think they were there in the first half and we didn’t manage to utilise them.

“Of course, the feel of the game changes on the first goal and Norwich then defended really compact and with bodies, and especially the longer the second half went on, they were able to defend with good bodies, good organisation, with the crowd behind them and they always carried a bit of a counter threat with Josh Sargent as well.

“I think there’s nothing in particular that wasn’t available to us today, there was nothing in particular that was new today or that anyone has done to stop us, I think it was more about us not executing to our best level.”

Is there a feeling within the club that there’s some psychological block coming into these games, the wait for a derby victory now set to go into a 16th year.

“No, to be honest, there’s not,” McKenna insisted. “Of course, it’s nice to win your derby. We haven’t had one for four seasons before this one.

“I think the game at Portman Road, we played very, very well and came close to winning it and this is the second game that this group’s been through.

“It’s the first time this group of players have been to Carrow Road, so I don’t think there’s any baggage from things that have happened many years ago.

“We just didn’t hit the level required to win the game. I don’t think either team hit a particularly high level, but credit to Norwich, they found a way to come out on the right side of the margin.

“I think it just wasn’t our day and the clubs will hopefully meet again more regularly. I don’t think either of us will be spending time in League One any time soon, so it’s a good rivalry, it’s a good derby, there’ll be more matches over the next few years and I’m sure this club will have its day as well.”

Regarding the possibility that the teams could meet in the play-offs, McKenna added: “We don’t speak about the outcomes or the points totals much, but in reality we know there are two outcomes for us now because we’ve mathematically secured the play-offs.

“Of course, the incredible work that everyone has done to this point, it’s possible that we can secure an automatic place, as much as that’s going to take a record points total and all those things, it’s possible and we’ll fight for that right the last games.

“But, let’s be realistic again. At the start of the season, if we were to be in a play-off position, everyone would find that fantastic and whoever we’d have to play we know it’s going to be a good side.

“But we also know, even coming out of today, I don’t think there’s anything for us to fear in this division, that we can be a good side on our day and we’ll focus on the next five games. We’ll give every one our full attention, we’ll look forward to them and then we’ll see where we’re at.”

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TimmyH added 16:33 - Apr 6
Not sure we've hit our 'usual levels' away from home for sometime now - but you do expect more intensity in a crunch game where we haven't beaten the budgies since 2009.

RegencyBlue added 16:36 - Apr 6
No getting away from the fact it was a poor performance today. You wouldn’t have known we were top of the league on that evidence and for a Derby game we had no intensity or obvious passion to get the win.

Having said all that, whenever we have had a bad result before we have come back stronger so hopefully it will be the same again!

Westy added 16:59 - Apr 6
This hurts but hope this clears a few up. In all Ipswich v Norwich derby matches (including friendlies, that actually don't exist against Norwich) we have 60 wins to Norwich's 58 - and the top three largest margins of victory are all 5-0 to Ipswich. I'm fortunate enough to have seen us win at Norwich and I know from experience the players would have got an amazing reception when taking the field on Wednesday against Watford - enter the conquering heroes and all that. Do feel our manager got it wrong today by not making changes earlier. It just simply wasn't happening for us. Still not sure he really understands what this fixture means.

Broadbent23 added 17:03 - Apr 6
There was sickness in the camp this week. So I don't think the team trained to their full potential. The Southampton victory leading to the derby game has not been a perfect scenario for planning. Three points is better than two at the end of the season. This league is mental for throwing up unusual results. We have to believe in the process.

dangerous30 added 17:05 - Apr 6
At lease Leeds lost too

blueboy1981 added 17:06 - Apr 6
You can say that yet again - putting it mildly you can see why Pundits knock us, we have produced some really below par performances lately, rode our luck somewhat, and relied on other results going in our favour.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going - in truth we barely turned up today - so What can we expect now ??

Radlett_blue added 17:13 - Apr 6
Norwich have played the same number of games as Town this season so I don't think we can use tiredness as an excuse. We were poor today & yes, we were in control until Norwich won a succession of fairly soft free kicks & corners. The real problem was that we didn't improve in the 2nd half as Norwich executed their game plan to hold their lead very well.

IpswichT62OldBoy added 17:19 - Apr 6
Leeds have lost, Coventry could still spoil,Narch hopes

Bert added 17:22 - Apr 6
Teams make their own luck because they create the opportunities to do so. Today we just didn’t deliver but we deserve to be up there still fighting. It’s not the sign of a true supporter to start agreeing with the biased pundits on Sky. On Monday night every media outlet was singing our praises so one bad and hurtful defeat is not something we should dwell on. As the results today have shown, there’s still plenty to play for.

churchmans added 17:27 - Apr 6
We where dogsshiyt from the first minute to last!!!! They jadca plan,it worked! All this reff this reff that!
F***off we where absolute dogschitt I would of rather lost to Southampton and beat narwich@
Sorry feckin pathetic performance

churchmans added 17:27 - Apr 6
We where dogsshiyt from the first minute to last!!!! They jadca plan,it worked! All this reff this reff that!
F***off we where absolute dogschitt I would of rather lost to Southampton and beat narwich@
Sorry feckin pathetic performance

churchmans added 17:27 - Apr 6
We where dogsshiyt from the first minute to last!!!! They jadca plan,it worked! All this reff this reff that!
F***off we where absolute dogschitt I would of rather lost to Southampton and beat narwich@
Sorry feckin pathetic performance

churchmans added 17:27 - Apr 6
We where dogsshiyt from the first minute to last!!!! They jadca plan,it worked! All this reff this reff that!
F***off we where absolute dogschitt I would of rather lost to Southampton and beat narwich@
Sorry feckin pathetic performance

SpiritOfJohn added 17:29 - Apr 6
We missed Burns today. Chaplin is less effective and we lacked the pace to get in behind their defence. We will need Burns fit if we finish third. But it's still in our own hands after Leeds lost.

ITFCSG added 17:50 - Apr 6
No excuses, players were invisible today. I wonder if the players know the significance of the derby. We had the whole fooking second half to change things around and yet more negative back passes with no sense of urgency. Chaplin - invisible throughout the whole match might as well not have played. Probably goosed after his sprint on Monday but he better remember he's a Town player first then a Pompey fan. Broadhead invisible. Moore why play him if unfit? Taylor invisible. Luongo AWOL. Harness might as well play for the skum the amount of free kicks he gave them. 5 games to go with massive improvement needed. Our performances v Blackburn and Saints were not good either - we just had the rub of the green we hadn't today. Leeds may have lost to Cov but look at how they attacked the Cov goal all the way to the end while we were passing the ball around like a training match and giving silly free kicks to the S*um in the 90th minute. Not going to sugarcoat it I am pi$$ed now, wake the fk up

Suffolkboy added 18:23 - Apr 6
Can’t take on board the apparent lack of understanding of human strengths and weaknesses , the undoubted strain and pressures expected from extraordinary performance ,nor the lack of balance in outlook !
Our squad have given everything this season but simply cannot be expected to be totally faultless or possess inexhaustible energy : a lull , a dull response had to be on the cards and we should just believe and give our fervent support knowing ITFC will not only do their best in the remaining few games ,BUT have provided delight and entertainment beyond wildest expectation this season !

ImAbeliever added 18:41 - Apr 6
5 games to go, totally in our hands. Don’t panic. Gutted today? Yes. Angry. NO.

churchmans added 18:41 - Apr 6
Utter bull and drivel! We where cr*p from the 1st minute till the last!!
In terms of the match and only the match today I'm talking about wevwhere s**So explain the markdown!! Are you are true blue or not? That was an utter shambolic performance and should be highlighted! I hope mckenna gave them the hair dryer speech at the end!
At least you came back on and replied I gota give you respect for that!
As for the othe other 2 beltends!
My god that was a shocking performance and I'm amazed with the markdown because it means there okay with the

churchmans added 18:42 - Apr 6

alfromcol added 18:44 - Apr 6
Too many people on here have forgotten had bad things were 3 years ago. In fact with crowds of 13000 you might not even attending matches. With a Leeds lost we can still do this.

churchmans added 18:48 - Apr 6
Your both bang on

@Imabeliever (I am angry that was unacceptable! Purely because we gave nothing,no threat the entire match I could accept it if we performed and lost)

KMcBlue added 19:06 - Apr 6
It does feel a bit like a 'curse'. After all, it was the 2-2 (totally out of character at that point) that began our bad patch. I'm concerned about Cov and Hull too. Tough games

churchmans added 19:07 - Apr 6
Try 13 yrs
I stand by my summary unacceptable performance! Improve or face heartache in the playoffs

ArnieM added 19:17 - Apr 6
We’re far too predictable. We are pedestrian in our build up out of defence, and scum did again what they did at PR, ie sit back and wait for us. Pack their defence and hit us on the break looking for a goal or free kick on the edge of our area. They repeated it again today. Why? Because were so predictable in how we play.

I will say though, had scum tired to play open football against I suspect we’d have hammered them. They knew they couldn’t match us in a passing game so applied a typical League One approach - park the bus , hit on the break. We can’t deal with it and didn’t last season either .

We are slow in defence. Slow in midfield, and slow in transitions. At no point this season has McKenna really deviated from our approach. I think that is naive. We can’t play total football all the time. There are times in a game where you just need to put your foot through it, and get the ball forward quicker. Our strikers had nothing to work off.

I’m Well pissed off tonight because I knew this would be how we’d play. Just when will a Town side grow a pair for these derby games??

Today scum were more up for it. But in all the years I’ve watched these derby games, rarely do I see an Ipswich side “ up for it”. We are mentally weak in these derby fixtures. It will almost certainly be the same story should we get them in the PO’s.

Why is it Town players can’t seem to make or withstand a tackle? We are powder puff frankly.

jonnysuave added 19:29 - Apr 6
They cheated all the way through that game. That Sargent being the arch perpetrator.
As a TV viewer, our fans sounded as off the pace as our team, that could be the placement of microphones and all of that, but I hope some of our anxiety doesn't pass on to the team for the rest of the season.
Norwich are a club that being where they are don't deserve to be in English football. Norfolk (forgetting the broad and all those other nice places) is too out on a limb. Full of deformed halfwits with little to do with the modern world.
We lost to them and we will again in if we end up in the play offs, what with them cheating and their friendly refs and being halfwits... And us playing like that

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