Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna felt his side were worthy of victory in comeback home draw with promotion rival West Brom
Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna felt his side would have deserved all three points from their 2-2 home draw with West Bromwich Albion, the Blues having twice come from a goal down and having come close to winning it via a late Ali Al-Hamadi shot which was well saved by Baggies keeper Alex Palmer.
The visitors went in front via Tom Fellows on 18 minutes before Nathan Broadhead ended an eight-game goal drought within 44 seconds of the second half getting under way.
Albion sub John Swift restored the Black Country side’s lead before Omari Hutchinson scored Town’s equaliser in an injury time spell in which the Blues threw the kitchen sink at the Baggies with Palmer thwarting Al-Hamadi, the keeper saving the Blues’ sub’s powerful effort on the spin.
“I thought it was a really good game, a great atmosphere,” McKenna said. “Bar a couple of inches at the end we’d have been talking about an absolute classic in terms of games we’ve had at this stadium.
“There were lots of good things about the performance. I thought we deserved the three points, to be honest. Lots of good things about the performance on the ball, but also off the ball plenty of good things.
“Two moments that we didn’t defend well enough, which leads to frustration that we haven’t won the game, another game that we feel that we’ve done enough to win.
“But a lot of pride in the way we played, the effort given, the atmosphere the supporters created and stuck with.
“And going behind twice to West Brom, to put the pressure on that we did, to get a point, to deserve three, I think we can take a lot from that.”
As in their previous two games, the Blues managed more than 20 shots on and off target, while opposition sides have now scored seven goals from seven shots on target in Town’s last three matches in all competitions.
McKenna admitted the Blues would have been fuming had they not grabbed their second leveller.
“Yes, we would,” he said. “To be fair, it’s a little run but I think you could see that in plenty of games we’ve had the better opportunities, better chances, more of them and not given too much away.
“Of course, it’s always frustrating when you don’t get the wins, but it’s always much more concerning if you’re not creating chances and you’re giving away a lot of chances, and that’s not been the case.
“You have spells in the season, there were probably spells earlier in the season where we were extremely clinical and maybe made some big interventions at the other end as well.
“You usually hope and trust that if you’re performances are consistent and you’re creating more than you’r giving away, that you’ll pick up plenty of points.”
Town have now won only once in the league in their last nine, but their performance levels have been better than that suggests with draws with leaders Leicester home and away and a home win against Sunderland in that streak as well as today’s draw with the fifth-placed Baggies.
“In many ways, yes,” McKenna concurred. “We don’t feel like we’re far off winning games, certainly. And we’re not losing many games either, we’ve lost very few.
“Of course we want to win games, but the Championship’s a really tough division, you’re going to have points and stages where you don’t win as many, you can count back in different ways, one in nine, if you count 11 games, it’s three wins in 11.
“We’re drawing too many games that we should win but not losing many. We have to accept that and keep looking to improve, no doubt about it.
“We won’t hide from the areas that we need to do better on that will help us turn good performances into victories.
“But at the same time, we’ll keep focusing on what we do day-to-day and how we perform and trust that over the course of time and over the course of the season that you normally get close to what you deserve, and we still feel like we’re doing a lot of good things as a team.”
Town went behind for the fifth game in a row in all competitions and have conceded 16 goals in the first half an hour of matches and 12 in the first 15, both more than any other side in the division.
“It’s not something we’re ignoring, that’s for sure,” McKenna said when asked about his team’s slow beginning to matches. “I didn’t think we won enough challenges at the start of the game.
“We spoke about it before the game but despite that I didn’t think we won enough challenges. I thought we were still playing pretty well but West Brom came out on top of all the 50/50 balls and on too many occasions when there was a chance to win the ball, we didn’t win it.
“And that didn’t allow us to create the same domination as we have in the later stages.
“Now look, that’s a lot of different factors, there are two teams on the pitch, West Brom have excellent players, our players are still at full stretch to compete at this level, to be fair.
“And you’re not going to have the whole 90 minutes. We won’t hide and shy away from the fact that we need to find ways to consistently impose ourselves on the game at the start.
“But on the other hand, we have to respect the level that we’re playing at and the competition that we’re up against and also take a big positive that the players fully believe in the fact that if we stick to our plan, if we stick to how we play over the course of 90 minutes, then usually we’re still going strong at the end and the other team are really with the feeling that they’ve been in a really, really difficult game.
“And I think that was the case today, certainly by the latter stages we were coming out on top of all those things.
“That’s not just a defensive issue, it’s how we’ve worked the opposition so hard and so well with the ball that there’s a fatigue element in that.
“We’ll speak about it again before Wednesday night [when Town travel to Millwall], there are a couple of things in my mind that we will try and address.
“But at the same time, we respect the level that we’re operating in, you’re not going to have the whole 90 minutes and we’ve had more than enough of that 90 minutes today to win the game.”
McKenna was asked whether he expects the Baggies, who came close to becoming only the second side to double the Blues this season, to take points off their promotion rivals between now and the end of the campaign.
“They can take points off anyone,” he reflected. “They’re a really tough team to play against and, as I said yesterday, they’re probably the best team in the league to defend a one-goal lead, so to be in that situation twice and to come back in the way that we did, there’s a lot of positives in that.”
It was notable that a number of West Brom’s players crashed to the turf exhausted at the final whistle.
“They’re physically a really good team but the players really believe that if we can get the game at the intensity that we want it and if we can impose ourselves in the game, then we’ll still be going strong in the later stages of games and other teams will be tired, and that’s down to how we work,” McKenna continued.
“I know they’re a really fit team who work hard as well, so the energy levels that we had at the end, the impact of the substitutes again, that’s something that we can take big positives from.”
The Blues boss was asked why central defender Cameron Burgess, who came back from international duty with Australia at the Asian Cup earlier in the week, was left out of the match-day 20.
“He’s only just returned, has been training not to much and been on the bench for most of the game in a completely different climate, so not easy to come back into a game in the intensity of today,” the Northern Irishman said.
“And I think George [Edmundson] has been playing really well, to be honest, he’s been one of our best players and I thought he was one of the best players again today.
“That’s a good position to be in now with the squad and everyone’s going to have to earn and keep earning their places in the team.”
With Southampton winning a crazy game 5-3 at home to Huddersfield Town and Leeds United with a more straightforward 3-0 victory at home to Rotherham United in the 3pm kick-offs, the fourth-placed Blues have fallen to four and three points behind them respectively in the race for automatic promotion.
The draw does keep them 11 points ahead of fifth-placed West Brom ahead of travelling to 18th-placed Millwall on Wednesday (8pm).