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Ipswich Town: Kieran McKenna praises side’s performance after 4-0 win at Millwall in Sky Bet Championship

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna felt his side’s 4-0 away victory at Millwall was ‘a good, solid team performance’.

Town won by their biggest margin this season with Nathan Broadhead, a Wes Harding own goal, Kieffer Moore and Al Al-Hamadi from the penalty spot providing the goals.

“A good night’s work,” McKenna reflected. “A good performance in some different areas. I thought our defending set plays was really good.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna praised his side’s 4-0 away victory at Millwall. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna praised his side’s 4-0 away victory at Millwall. Picture: Barry Goodwin

“We probably had more against us than we would want, but we defended them really well and that’s always a big part of the performance coming here.

“That was good, I thought we were solid in free play. We controlled large chunks with the ball, created not loads of opportunities and a couple of good ones and were really clinical when they came. I think it was a good, solid team performance.”

But Town didn’t have it all their own way with the Lions starting the game strongly and having chances.

“That can happen here, one set play leads into two, leads into three and every throw and deep free-kick, wide free-kick and corner they’re going to put it in your box and they’re a big threat on that.

“There were some of those situations in the first 15 minutes and we needed to stay strong to that and defend the moments well, and we done that, which is a good step forward for us.

“Once we got through that, once we took control of the game with the ball and we were able to impose ourselves on it, I felt like we were fully in control really and we were able to change gears whenever we needed to and go through them as well.

“I think a good, solid night’s work and we needed to show the different elements that we have the different elements that you need to win games in the Championship.”

The game appeared to turn around the 15-minute mark when Omari Hutchinson suffered a knock, affording McKenna and his staff the chance to impart some information to the rest of the team.

“We felt like we’d got through the first bit of the game and we’d seen off the set players,” McKenna said when asked what they were told. “We needed to give a few less away because it wasn’t taking much contact or any contact at times for them to go down to try and earn the free-kicks.

“We needed to get hold of that and then it was just tactically, a couple of things in the game. Millwall’s defensive shape was sometimes in between a back four and back five with [Danny] McNamara’s role and it was just about everyone understanding the pictures.

“We expected them to press in a different way than they did, so it was just a few little details for us to get on top of and once we did that and got control of the game with the ball, we never really looked back.”

In recent games Town have had numerous chances - more than 20 shots in each of the last three - but without turning them into goals. Today, the opposite was the case with the Blues having four shots on target and scoring four goals.

“I think we’re long due a night like that, to be honest. If you look at it statistically, the last night games we’ve been creating some more shots and having less against and having more xG and having less against than we were in the first nine games of the season.

“But sometimes football works like that and tonight we were clinical, we had little bits of fortune, not loads, but the own goal, the second goal, when it goes in is an important moment. And we produced the defensive moments whenever we needed to.

“I think we’ve been long overdue a night that things went our way and I think we’ve earned that not just tonight but with some good performances in recent weeks as well.”

Quizzed on whose decision it was to hand Al-Hamadi the ball for the penalty, he said: “I’m not quite sure, to be fair. We have a nominated penalty taker for the start of the game and that penalty taker wasn’t on the pitch at that time, then it’s always a little bit of a judgement call.

“A really good move to earn the penalty, Conor [Chaplin] slides in Ali, Ali does really well to earn the penalty and the players felt it would be nice for him when the game was won to have chance to get his first goal. All’s well that ends well there.”

Prior to tonight, Town had won only one in their last nine, but even so are only three points off Leeds in second and one point behind Southampton in third. McKenna was asked whether that was important having gone through a tougher spell.

“What’s really important to me is that when we’re not winning every game, we’re not winning week in, week out - and we went through a phase of the season where we’ve had a lot of injuries, disruption to the squad, we’ve had to try and integrate new players and we’ve had some things go against - that everyone in the building, the dressing room first of all, have stayed really calm, had full belief in how we work, keep focusing on our day to day work, keep focusing on our processes and our performances and make sure we’re competitive in every game.

“And we’ve been competitive in every game, and that’s not easy to do in the Championship, maybe only the Leeds game with the qualities they have is the only one which opened up really.

“Other than that, we’ve been competitive across 31 games against some really, really good sides.

“I think that’s big credit and I sometimes take more pride in the building and the culture we’ve built when everything doesn’t go our way because I know the dressing room, I know the insides of the club that will all keep working, pulling in the same direction and you know if you do the right things, good things will come your way.”

McKenna has been strongly linked with Premier League Crystal Palace in recent days with other top flight clubs also having been mentioned as suitors.

The Blues boss was asked whether it’s been difficult to keep that out of people’s focus at Town.

“I don’t think I’ve had to,” he reflected. “Certainly no one’s asked me about it within the dressing room.

“I think the players see the way myself and the staff are working every day, they see the commitment we’re giving, we see that reciprocated in their efforts and there’s not much time for talk about anything else.

“The games come thick and fast, we’ve got Swansea now on Saturday and that’s where the full focus will be after tonight.”

The three behind leaders Leicester remain very close and it appears the matter of who takes the final automatic promotion spot will go to the wire, but McKenna insists everyone at Portman Road is concentrating only on their own matches and displays.

“We’re honestly just focusing on ourselves and not paying any attention to anyone else’s results,” he said.

“We’re focusing on ourselves and our performances and we’re pretty happy with what we’ve done tonight but knowing that there’s still room to improve.

“We feel like there’s still improvement in the squad, we’re still integrating new players into the team and into the squad and we’ve got a lot of work to do.

“Our focus is just on the hard work that needs to be done on the training ground and preparing for the games as well as we can.

“We’ve got Swansea away now on Saturday, it’s a really tough game, there’s no time in between and going back-to-back Wednesday-Saturday in the Championship is really tough.

“We don’t waste any energy thinking about the other teams. We know it’s a really competitive division, we know the points totals at the top of the league are probably going to break some records, so we just want to do the best that we can, perform as well as we can and pick up as many points as we possibly can between now and pick up as many points as we can between now and the end of the year.”

Meanwhile, McKenna says full-back Brandon Williams, who has returned to parent club Manchester United for assessment since just after Christmas, currently remains at Old Trafford: “He’s still with United.”