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Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna hails ‘solid performance’ at Plymouth Argyle as Blues go back into automatic promotion spot

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

A 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.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna saw his side record a fifth straight victory in the Championship with the 2-0 win at Plymouth Argyle Picture: Barry Goodwin
Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna saw his side record a fifth straight victory in the Championship with the 2-0 win at Plymouth Argyle Picture: Barry Goodwin

“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.”

Kieffer Moore scored his fifth goal in seven matches since rejoining Ipswich Town on loan from AFC Bournemouth Picture: Barry Goodwin
Kieffer Moore scored his fifth goal in seven matches since rejoining Ipswich Town on loan from AFC Bournemouth Picture: Barry Goodwin

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.”