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McKenna: What a Wonderful Position to Be In
Saturday, 27th Apr 2024 23:29

Town boss Kieran McKenna reflected on the wonderful position his side is in following tonight’s 3-3 draw at Hull City.

The Blues need four points from their final two games to confirm their return to the Premier League for the first time in 22 years following a rip-roaring encounter at the MKM Stadium.

“It was an emotional game, I thought it was a wonderful game between two good teams,” McKenna said.

“I thought there were so, so many positives in our performance. I saw so many of the things that I love about the team, that I love about the club and the way we’re going about our business.

“That’s the business end of the season, there’s a lot riding on it and it’s fantastic to be involved.

“Very proud of the performance. Of course, we feel like we could have got the win out of it. On the other hand, it’s a point away from home against a good team with lots of good players and a good coach, who were really throwing absolutely everything at it to try and keep their season alive as well.

“To come away from home and to get a point, to stay undefeated in this last little block, I think there are big positives to take from the night.”

Asked whether he felt he views the game as an opportunity missed or moving his side a point closer, McKenna said: “I think we’ll always take the positive perspective from it. That puts us to 90 points, we know the significance of that. I’m not sure anyone’s ever done that in the EFL, got 90 points two seasons in a row in two different divisions, it’s an incredible achievement.

“Of course, we know what we need from the last two games and hopefully tonight will prove to be a really, really big point.

“You can look at the game and say that we had the chances to get the fourth goal that probably have killed the game. On the other hand, we scored two great goals from outside the box. We’ll take the positives and we’ll move on to Tuesday night.”

Reflecting on the three his team conceded, he added: “We’re not delighted with the two goals we conceded in the second half, I think that’s clear. Considering the talent we were up against and the quality of players and the fact that they threw so many attackers on, considering all that, I didn’t think we gave away too many chances in the second half.

“The first goal in the first half, it can happen. I think anyone who has watched us, I don’t need to say, Vaz [Vaclav Hladky] playing into Samy [Morsy] and Samy taking the responsibility to get us through the pitch, I don’t know many points we’d be worse off if Samy hadn’t been doing that all year, but it’s an awful lot.

“That can happen and, of course, they’ll have our full support. I thought, actually, conceding the goal in the flow and the context of the whole game, didn’t do us any harm because we got straight back on the front foot and we got the goal back from that and I thought we gained a level of control that we kept for the large majority of the game after that.

“The two goals in the second half, we don’t defend the cross well enough, we don’t defend the set piece and keep it out of our net well enough, so that’s disappointing.

“But again, we’ve not been conceding many goals, we’ve been defending well. We’re disappointed with those tonight but at the same time, we’ve curled two into the net from outside the box.

“We could have kept a few more out but we’ve scored two great goals as well and created many, many, many more chances.

“We’ll never hide from things we could do better, but tonight’s certainly a night to take the positives.”

McKenna agreed that two-goal Omari Hutchinson is a special player: “He is. I think his mindset’s developed so much, it’s getting to the point that he’s got a pretty special mindset for a young player.

“He’s so hungry to improve. He wants to work on his game all the time, he’s taking on information so, so well and he’s come on leaps and bounds.

“You could see that tonight in his performance in two different positions, two different roles, really. Big tactical jobs to do in both positions, carried a big threat in both positions and produced two goals and, as he is, he’s in there, he’s disappointed he didn’t get his hat-trick.”

McKenna surprisingly handed George Hirst, who had been out since Boxing Day having undergone hamstring surgery, and Wes Burns, who had been out for a month with a more minor hamstring problem, starts, but he didn’t believe that was a gamble.

“We didn’t see it as a risk medically, to be honest,” he said. “I wouldn’t play a player no matter what stage of the season it was if I thought it was a medical risk.

“[George has] trained fully for the last two weeks, really. He played 45 minutes in a behind-closed-doors game last week.

“The biggest challenge was going to be getting the rhythm of a game of this level and I thought he did a really good job.

“Of course, he’s shown that he can produce big moments and big finishes in big games and he’s stepped up and done that again today, and Wes with the assist.

“The only challenge was going to be getting the speed of the game but we knew Hull would defend man-to-man against us on the top line and the running power, especially of those two boys, was always going to be important tonight, and I thought they did a really good job.

“The positive thing is that I thought they were getting stronger as the game went on and really we took them both off to make sure we weren’t going into a medical risk.

“They both give us a great option for the next two games and it’s great to have them both available.”

Asked how much of a boost it would be having matters in their own hands when Huddersfield visit Portman Road next Saturday having beaten Coventry, McKenna said: responded: “That’s the goal, for sure. We knew coming into today we needed five points.

“That’s certainly the objective, to try and get a result on Tuesday night, hopefully a win, but to get a positive result that keeps things under our control going into the last game.”

Quizzed on whether Hutchinson was among the players in his squad he considers ready for the Premier League, McKenna paused before answering.

“You can only say that we’re competing really, really well at the very top of the Championship and we’ve done that for 45 games now,” he said.

“Of course, we’re a team and it’s very much a team ethic and the players play well within the team, but you don’t get to that point without having some very, very good players in your team.

“We feel we certainly have that. Our focus, whether that’s players who are here or whether that’s the loan players, is just on the next game, we’re not thinking about anything ahead of Coventry, we’re certainly not thinking about the Premier League at the moment, we’re just thinking about trying to perform as well as we can and trying to win the game ahead of us.”

Reflecting on the team spirit his squad has shown, he said: “I think it’s very, very strong. I think it’s been evident not just this season, it was evident last season.

“We’ve got all the ingredients that you need for having a good spirit, we’ve got good characters, we’ve got good leaders, we’ve got a diverse group in terms of experiences and age, but they’ve come together really, really well and the supporters are right behind them.

“I don’t think this group is every going to be caught short for spirit or the mental aspects of the game, it’s about trying push with everything we can to keep our performance levels high.”

Reflecting on a huge week ahead for the club, McKenna added: “Of course it is. Every game’s been a big game for I don’t know how long now and I think you can see the effort we’ve put into every game.

“Tuesday night won’t be any different, tonight wasn’t any different. I know the players will give their all. I think we’re playing well, I think we’re performing well, we’re doing a lot of good things as a team.

“I think you can see the team aren’t playing with a great deal of anxiety or anything like that. I think they’re enjoying the matches, enjoying the stage of the season and where we’re at.

“Of course, the games are hard and they’re tight because of the level we’re operating at and the step up we’ve made, but we’re enjoying it.

“What a wonderful position to be in, what a great game to look forward to on Tuesday night.

“We know, whatever happens now, we’re going to go back to Portman Road on Saturday morning in contention for automatic promotion to the Premier League. What a wonderful thing to be involved in.

“We’ll embrace that but most importantly, we’ll recover and prepare to try and deliver a performance on Tuesday.”

Photo: TWTD

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MadDogBlue added 23:34 - Apr 27
What a ride we've been on since KM took the mantle at PR. It was frustrating at times tonight but I find his post match comments very calming for my frayed nerves:) COYB.

Saxonblue74 added 23:59 - Apr 27
100% boss, just a handful on here have very short memories.

Suffolkboy added 04:02 - Apr 28
KM has proved exceptional and outstanding ! He’s proved a truly good and honest communicator , taking us along with the ITFC approach and thinking —- and plainly believes in his players as they do in him!
The best ever since Sir Bobby !

bobble added 05:01 - Apr 28
Good result ..another draw. Against Coventry would also be good result

Help added 07:06 - Apr 28
only 4 points required from 2 games. still in our hands.

SpiritOfJohn added 07:42 - Apr 28
Sensible comments from our intelligent manager, who is rightly proud of his team's achievements. Be in no doubt that he is aware of where we need to improve and will be focusing on the next match without getting carried away and making knee-jerk changes. Keep the faith!

ArmaghBlue added 07:55 - Apr 28
Should have been an even better position but for the terrible last 4 games

Len_Brennan added 08:04 - Apr 28
I think it's fair to say that had West Brom & Norwich won yesterday, leaving it impossible for Hull to get a playoff spot before kick off, we would have won that game last night.
It was clear in their play, change of tactics & in post match interviews, that Hull were absolutely driven to get something from the game to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Coventry cannot make the playoffs, & Huddersfield cannot stay up now; these 2 matches are unlikely to see a similar level of desire or quslity from our opposotion.
At any stage of this season, an away point at this Hull side should be seen as a good point gained; on to Covrntry now, where a win will leave us on the brink.

cressi added 08:13 - Apr 28
Armagh Blue What I would say Blackburn and Qpr away we got lucky things work themselves out we now have two games a draw Tuesday would be absolutely fine.
Let's be honest a home game to a side who in all aspects except mathematical are down we could not really have asked for more. Never take for granted But if it happens at Portman Road how special will it be.

muhrensleftfoot added 08:30 - Apr 28
It's a great position to be in contention for automatic promotion going into the last game of the season. It's only 2 years ago we finished 11th in the 3rd division. As a supporter though I can't help looking back and thinking we should already be there - the defeat at Cardiff when we were leading in the 95th minute, the draws instead of wins over the winter & 3 points from the last possible 12. I suppose every team looks back at lost points they should've won. All will be forgotten though if we get 4 or more from the next 2 games. COYB

Dissboyitfc added 08:40 - Apr 28
And some questioned my sanity when I suggested that Hirst and Burns could play a part in the run in !

Burley4ever added 09:40 - Apr 28
I hope the 4 points we dropped to Watford and Middlesbro don't come back to haunt us as we would been up by now.
But with the games Coventry have had recently and Huddersfield at home it should still be possible especially with Burns and Hirst back plus hopefully Broadhurst back for the last two it will be game on!!!

Texastom added 09:57 - Apr 28
Draw great result.
We will go up now.
Will be ugly and horrible right to the end. Sorry Leeds.

barrystedmunds added 12:59 - Apr 28
I don’t get this “points dropped” angle, you could argue that the points we gained in those last minutes nail biters against the likes of Rotherham and Southampton and others were equally as crucial in where we find ourselves . It’s happened, we deal with what’s in front of us and Coventry is the next challenge. I would also caution against a Huddersfield turning up with their beach towels and flip flops; we’ve been there before!!!

Northstandveteran added 13:51 - Apr 28
Cucumber boy.

As in 'cool as.'

Which is handy, what with being in charge and all that.

Don't worry people, Kieron's got this.

BobbyBell added 15:30 - Apr 28
Hirst played like he'd never been away. I hope we beat Coventry to make the last home game a bit less pressured. I think Leeds will win against Southampton because Southampton have nothing to play for and may rest players ahead of the play offs. We all thought it would be a tough game for Leeds but now it's a dead rubber for Southampton and why would they risk key players in what is now a meaningless game for them.

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