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Ipswich Town 1 v 1 Middlesbrough
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 13th April 2024 Kick-off 15:00
McKenna: Proud of the Performance in Brilliant Game
Saturday, 13th Apr 2024 18:33

Pride was Town boss Kieran McKenna’s main emotion following their 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough at Portman Road, although admitted that frustration might come into it tomorrow with the Blues, who returned to the top of the Championship, having spurned a chance to go three points clear.

Massimo Luongo netted an 30th-minute equaliser for Town against his old club after Emmanuel Latte Lath had put the Teessiders in front 10 minutes earlier.

In the lunchtime fixture, Leeds had been beaten 1-0 at home by Blackburn, while Leicester, who went into the weekend as leaders, lost by the same scoreline at Plymouth on Friday night.

Asked whether he was frustrated by the result, the Blues’ second home stalemate in four days following the goalless draw with Watford, McKenna said: “Frustration isn’t my feeling at the moment, maybe it will be tomorrow. At the moment, it’s pride around the performance.

“I thought it was a brilliant game, I thought the performance was excellent against a good side and I was really proud of how we went about our business.

“I thought we played brave, we played confident, tactically it was a really good battle, we created plenty of chances to win the game and I thought it was a really good performance.

“Over the course of the last two games, could we have had an extra couple of points? For sure. Could we have lost today? Vaz [Vaclav Hladky] produces a great save at the end. Possibly.

“The players are giving everything and what’s more pleasing for me is the performance. The end of the season, forget how many points that we’ll get, I don’t think they’re going to leave an ounce of effort out there.

“I really liked how we went about our business and at the end of the day we pick up a point from a really good performance and we’ve got a little bit of recovery now and we can look forward to the last week and three great games.”

Reflecting on the match against Boro, who are managed by his close friend Michael Carrick, he added: “It was a really difficult game. To play Watford and Middlesbrough with the Watford game the fourth game in 12 days, then play Middlesbrough in game five in the last 15 days with important players missing from the squad for different reasons as well, to perform like that and for a good chunk of Wednesday’s game, I think is testament to the group.

“I think Middlesbrough are a very, very good side, they’ve shown that very often. I don’t think many teams will have given them as hard a game as today.

“Of course, they had a threat, I’m pretty sure Michael won’t have set them up to play on the transition, the counter-attack to be their biggest threat, but today it was, partly because of our play and because of the quality and the pace that they have as well.

“I thought it was a really good game. I’m proud that we managed to dominate large spells of it. They had their spells and moments as well and I thought it was two really good teams.”

McKenna was pleased with Luongo’s leveller from a Leif Davis corner, the left-back’s 17th Championship assist of the season, extending his new record for a defender at this level.

“Very good, very important, credit to the boys for the execution and to the staff for that one at this stage of the season,” the Blues boss continued.

“We spoke about it during the week, we need to score a set play or two over the next few games, for sure.

“You’re not going to win games at this stage of the season without scoring set plays and we haven’t scored one for a few games.

“Great that that one came off. Conor [Chaplin] had a big chance early in the game as well and set pieces can gain or lose you points at this stage of the season and you can look at it coldly today that the set plays won us an important point.”

Striker Ali Al-Hamadi, signed from League Two AFC Wimbledon in January, made his first start for the Blues and hugely impressed his manager with his display.

“I think he was fantastic, I have to say,” McKenna enthused. “I see a group in which everyone is contributing. I see players coming into the team, knowing their jobs, being fit, ready to play a part. I see players coming off the bench having impacts and that’s a fantastic place to be.

“Speaking of Ali in particular, I thought it was a terrific performance. We know where he’s come from, what his journey’s been. It’s one thing coming on late in the games in the Championship, which he’s done really well, when defenders are tired and he’s showed his aggression and his running and his hunger.

“But to play in that game, the tactical level of that game, his pressing was really, really good, it was disciplined, it was intelligent, some of his dropping down to connect with the number 10s was really, really good and that shows massive growth in the last few months because I don’t think he would have been capable of that a couple of months ago.

“There’s still loads to come from him but he’s showing that he can learn and will learn and for a first start in the Championship against a good team, good centre-halves, I thought that was a really good performance.”

McKenna revealed that right-back Harry Clarke missed out as he was unwell: “Harry was sick, so another one of those. He wasn’t able to be involved.”

The Blues boss says news of Leeds slipping up against Blackburn, their first home league defeat of the season, hadn’t filtered through prior to kick-off.

“No, I really don’t think it did,” he said. “I can only speak for myself, but I can also speak for what I’ve seen in the performance.

“I don’t see a team playing with any tension, I certainly don’t see a team playing with any anxiety. The boys looked like they were loving the match and playing their football and enjoying being part of this team, playing in that atmosphere and producing a really good performance.

“I don’t sense any tension in the group at all, to be honest. I know because we’ve not picked up as many points in the last couple of games [people might assume that was the case], but I think if we had Watford and Middlesbrough in such quick succession at any point of the season, it would be two hard-fought competitive games that could go either way.

“We could easily have won either game. I think the performances were probably good enough to win them both, but at the same time we could have lost one.

“I honestly feel that the group are enjoying it, they’re enjoying the game, enjoying being part of this experience at the top end of the division and the great thing is now that we’ve got a little bit of a pause and then we can really look forward to the last three games.”

Quizzed on whether he felt his side might have had a penalty towards end of first half, when Chaplin looked to be brought down by Rav van den Berg, McKenna said: “It’s never high on my checklist unless it’s something absolutely blatant, I’ve so many things to think about in the game.

“I’ll have it looked back and I’m sure I’ll have a good moan if there was one, but I didn’t feel anything too much at the time.

“The offside where Kieffer [Moore] has his chance late in the game is onside. I felt like it was onside at the time and the flag goes up and the whistle goes as Kieffer takes his shot. I think that was a big moment. But I didn’t see too much in the decisions.

“I thought there might have been a handball from [Matt] Clarke on the cross [from Axel Tuanzebe in the first half] but I didn’t have a great angle.

“It was a good game, a good sporting game, two teams competing and it’s better to focus on that.”

Town now have a two-week gap before they play again, at Hull City, due to next week’s Saturday’s game at Coventry being postponed as the Sky Blues are in FA Cup semi-final action against Manchester United next Sunday.

That, along with the 8pm kick-off at Hull, means Leicester and Leeds will both have played twice times before Town are next in action. Are the Foxes and Whites under greater pressure due to that?

“I don’t know,” McKenna smiled. “We’re coming from such a different place. If you asked me who’s under more pressure, I’m pretty sure everyone would agree it’s not us; where we’re coming from, how this group’s performed.

“Eighty-nine points at this stage of the season, the highest ever of a Championship team [following promotion], I’m not sure anyone in the history of the EFL has ever got 90 points two seasons in a row. We’re one point away from doing it.

“I don’t feel any pressure, I don’t think the boys do. I don’t think that’s anything to do with why we’ve drawn today. I think it was a really good game in isolation.

“I can’t speak for them [the other challengers]. I can imagine their mindset and environment is possibly a little bit different than ours.

“Today, I’ve seen a group of players really enjoying their football. I know supporters, of course, will get a little bit more anxious about these things but I thought they were terrific as well today.

“I think most supporters will go home today happy with the terrific game of football that they’ve seen and knowing that the players have given everything to try and get the three points. Of course, we have to take a point but I think they can be proud of what they saw.”

McKenna says the two-week gap is welcome after a busy run of five games in 15 days since the international break last month.

“It’s more important to have a week, we would have had a week anyway to prepare for the Coventry game, so I think that would have been more important,” he said.

“It’s been more about the relentlessness of the midweek games coming off the back of international duty and we had people like Kieffer especially playing 120 minutes in the second game of international duty, Broady [Nathan Broadhead] away, Cameron Burgess on the other side of the world in Australia for games.

“So it’s been really, really busy. So I think to have a free week would have been the most important.

“Having two weeks, it gives us a better chance to get boys coming back from injury, gives us a chance to get some 11-v-11 in next weekend and we’ll try and use the period as best we can.”

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ImAbeliever added 18:37 - Apr 13
I agree Kieran.

churchmans added 18:43 - Apr 13
Chaplin was well off today should of come off much earlier!
Moore had another poor game!
Hladky made TWO world class saves to keep us in it!
We are top and clear by 2pts but I can't help feeling massively disappointed!
Tommorow morning I shall feel optimistic but right now I feela mix of deflation and relief!

Suffolkboy added 18:45 - Apr 13
His emphasis is well measured and spot on ! Deserves every bit of appreciation for producing a fantastic season and wonderful experience for our totally rejuvenated ITFC !

Bert added 19:01 - Apr 13
Spot on KMcK . Only the mean hearted would differ.

ArnieM added 19:13 - Apr 13
Despite what McKenna says in that interview, I feel our players are desperate for a break now. Get Burns back, the sickness out of the camp, and the players rested, hopefully we can hit the gro7nd running for those last three games. I do feel Leicester especially will falter again. Here’s hoping anyway….


ImAbeliever added 19:14 - Apr 13
Being a bit more expansive, it was exciting and entertaining, great to see more of Sarmiento and more of the same from Omari (what careers they should have in front of them!). Obviously, disappointed not to get 3 points. BELIEVE.

Steelmonkey added 19:17 - Apr 13
I’m absolutely over the moon at how far we have come, can’t believe we are top of this division again, but being in that position should mean we are able to see off teams like the last three we have played. Yes we’ve had sickness in the camp and long term injuries but what an advantage we could now have over our close rivals.
Having said that we gained a point today where Leicester and Leeds have not, would nice to have nulled out Leicester’s game in hand on us but at this time of the season points on the board are better than probable ones.
Hutchinson should have had a hat trick today and Sarmiento could have had his name on the board too. Moore made the impact we needed him to coming in, however he doesn’t attack the ball enough in my opinion and has done little in his last four games and hasn’t clicked with Chaplin.
I do fear for us if we get promoted as this squad is nowhere near good enough but really hoping to be proved wrong.

Carberry added 19:19 - Apr 13
He must be concerned about the lack of goals, from the chances we produce.
Although he has got everyone on side with his reflections about pride and entertainment, the reality is we aren't finding the net enough, Moore, Chaplin, Broadhead have dried up while little can be expected of Al Hamedi at this stage in his development. Just hope the other two keep slipping up too.

ImAbeliever added 19:24 - Apr 13
I thought Al-Hamada was highly impressive with his high press work. A tireless performance.

pennblue added 19:55 - Apr 13
Great performance against a team that is flying at the moment. Crowd too were well up for it, good to see everyone in it together and even when we went 1-0 down everyone stayed chilled

Steve_ITFC_Sweden added 19:56 - Apr 13
Extremely entertaining game and we could well have won, although we could also have lost, although that would have been unfair. That the boys can put in this effort at this stage of the season bodes well for what is to come. Boro are no mugs, but we were the better team. Of course, most fans would prefer a dull game and three points, but if that is not on offer, then today still had so many plus points. It's still very open. All depends on how L and L react in their last few games. I can see Soton creeping into the top two plus one other - hopefully us! K McK is so balanced in his assessment as well. Worrying about whether or not is was a penaly "is never high on my checklist." What a refreshing change from 95% of the other blinkered managers who only ever see one side of things. COYB!

pablo123 added 19:59 - Apr 13
Really ??

yorkieblue62 added 20:27 - Apr 13
So long as Boro take points off Leeds I think we will do it, because then a win at Coventry and at home to Huddersfield will get us over the line, barring Saints winning their last five. A fortnights rest should help to produce better freshness and energy and who knows, Burns might be back and even Hurst ready to put in some minutes.

BanksterDebtSlave added 20:42 - Apr 13
What he said...

BlueWax added 20:52 - Apr 13
Love this club and all that goes with it, what a couple of seasons we've had.
One minor gripe is being asked to sit down immediately after we scored by a chap in magnus stand. Boro hadn't kicked off but all this nonsense in magnus stand prevailed...really, please get a grip...I am respectful to fellow fans but today was totally out of order by a grump.
Good job I had half time to calm down and a good friend swapped seats with me.
Atmosphere was good today but could have been better. If everyone gets involved and no pettiness!

bobble added 22:07 - Apr 13
we are the hardest to beat so we are on top, in 2 weeks time we will be even harder to beat....

Len_Brennan added 00:45 - Apr 14
Nearly all the talk is still about Leicester & Leeds, but by the time we next kick off in the league, Southampton will have played 3 more games. They are at home to Preston, away to Cardiff & then away to Leicester, so the way things are going they could pick up 9 points there ... which would put them 1 point AHEAD of us, but with only 2 games left, to our 3. They may well have overturned our goal difference advantage in doing so too.
That would severely impact Leicester's chances too of course, and they would still have to go to Leeds on the last day.

Van_Blue added 03:20 - Apr 14
All we can do is take one game at a time, play every game to the best of our ability, support the team to the best of our ability and see where we end up,

bakerblue added 06:09 - Apr 14
An excellent assessment as ever. I try to imagine what impact KmK’s demeanour has on the players, and am sure that his calmness and focus on the things they can influence translates into them playing without tension. Yes, a little disappointing not to win, but an excellent performance against a very good side in good form. A great game to watch. KmK could be the difference between us and the other three, not necessarily in terms of tactics, but his calm leadership. COYB!

bobble added 07:08 - Apr 14
town 1st ,saints 2nd, norwich 3rd.................thats the way it will hopefully finish after all the silly playoffs etc

Dissboyitfc added 07:18 - Apr 14
Obviously disapointed we didnt get the 3 points but really pleased with the performance, of the 3 sides fighting for top 2 (not including Southampton but maybe i should) we look like a team in the better form, Leeds and Leicester looked really in recents games!

Cant believe that Mick Mills said we didnt deserve to win that yesterday, we did and were the better team!

SpiritOfJohn added 07:27 - Apr 14
Kieran McKenna is rightly proud of the magnificent effort that was there for all to see again yesterday. @Phil saying we 'spurned' our chance to go 3 points clear feels wrong to me 'missed out' would be more appropriate given what we witnessed yesterday.

jayceee added 08:39 - Apr 14
Pride is the correct reaction to this game and of course the whole season. We're feeling the pressure being in contention at the top, along with fatigue, injuries and illness. Not an excuse - that's the reality! Add that to how much we've overachieved this season, and no matter how we finish, I'll be proud. Promotion would just be that massive cherry on top, albeit a scary one!

Gazelle added 08:46 - Apr 14
Woolfy continues to worry me at the back, The man he was marking was several inches shorter but often beat him in the air and certainly did him for pace.

Reecex28 added 09:03 - Apr 14
Quality report from a top quality manager. Within weeks of him joining I commented 'what a difference to have a manager that sees the same game as the fans'.

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