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Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna enjoys the spirit his side showed in comeback point at Birmingham City

Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna was really pleased and proud of the players and the supporters after the Blues came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Birmingham City at St Andrew’s.

Marcus Harness netted in the 79th and 89th minutes to claim a point for the Suffolk side who closed the gap to Sky Bet Championship leaders Leicester City to four points with a game in hand to come at Rotherham United on Tuesday.

It also saw the Blues remain unbeaten away from home in the league since January and in all competitions since February.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna saw his side keep their club record unbeaten league away run going at Birmingham City Picture: Ady Kerry
Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna saw his side keep their club record unbeaten league away run going at Birmingham City Picture: Ady Kerry

“Fantastic, really pleased and proud of the players, and of the supporters as well,” McKenna said of his side’s third comeback from 2-0 down this season, having previously beaten Cardiff 3-2 at home in the Championship and Premier League Wolves by the same scoreline in the Carabao Cup.

“We found ourselves in a really difficult position in the game, but we kept going and we’ve seen it before with this group and we’ve built over time that resilience and that belief to keep playing our football and trust that if we do the right things we can always score.

“Big, big credit to the players and the supporters for the way they stuck with it at the stage of the game we were at.”

Marcus Harness came off the bench to score twice at St Andrew’s Picture: Barry Goodwin
Marcus Harness came off the bench to score twice at St Andrew’s Picture: Barry Goodwin

Birmingham played with a great deal of intensity in the first half, never allowing the Blues time to settle on the ball in their defensive third, but the Town boss said he anticipated that dropping as they tired in the second period.

“I think that was clear coming into the game,” he said.

“We knew they were going to come out really fast. We knew there was going to be a lot of energy and noise in the stadium and it was going to go one way or the other, probably depending on who got the first goal.

“Birmingham started better than us in the first 10 minutes and got the first goal, there was some fortune in it as well with it being a mishit strike, but also big credit to Jay Stansfield for the way he intercepted it and finished it.

“That gave them great energy, a big noise in the stadium, a big atmosphere and it made it a really difficult first half, and we never quite managed to impose ourselves on the game in the way that we wanted to.

“But it’s clear that the intensity was going to drop and if we kept doing the right things, then we’d get hold of the ball - even in the first half we had plenty of the ball - and we would grow in the game and they would tire and spaces would open up a little bit more later on.

“I have to say, I thought we came out really well at the start of the second half, we imposed ourselves on it straight away and the biggest credit is probably the reaction to the second goal because that was the one that could really have deflated the group, but we managed to pick it straight up and keep going how we were.”

Once again McKenna’s subs made an impact, most notably Harness, who netted his third and fourth goals of the campaign.

“Credit to all the substitutes who came on,” the Northern Irishman added.

“That starts in the preparation, it starts in their mentality when they’re not starting the game to prepare yourself in the right way.

“Of course, we try and prepare what changes we might make if we’re chasing the game or if we were seeing the game out, and the boys all were pretty comfortable with what slots they were going to come into and they all had a really good impact.

“Marcus with the two goals, backing up his goal last week; that’s fantastic for him and great again for the spirit in the group and the understanding that the challenge that we’re facing this year is going to take the whole squad.”

McKenna was particularly impressed with the second, the former Portsmouth man volleying a dropping ball into the corner of the net.

“Great finish,” he said. “He’s technically such a good ball striker and he’s got so many attributes as a footballer and you just want to see him growing in belief now, which he really is.

“He’s stepped up to the Championship for the first time, I think he might have got a couple of minutes for Burton when he was very young but other than that this is a level that he wanted to show he can play at and he’s really impacting it. It’s great to see him showing his qualities as a player.”

Another sub, Dane Scarlett, played a part in both goals and McKenna was delighted for the on-loan Tottenham striker.

“Really pleased for him,” he said. “He’s been working hard in training, we’ve been trying to help him and get him up to the intensity so that he can really perform and help us.

“He’s a centre forward by nature and as a youth player and he’s been working on that role for us at times, but we’re also trying to develop his understanding and ability to play just in off the side a little bit.

“And we think he can bring a lot to us in that role as well, especially when we need a goal, because he’s got great quality around the last 18 yards, he’s two-footed, he can manipulate, go both ways and shoot off both feet.

“He showed all those qualities when he came on and that’s something for him to build on now and a really good impact.”

How important might his side’s ability to stage comebacks such as today’s might prove to be over the course of the season?

“Let’s see,” he reflected. “I enjoyed it, I really enjoyed the second half. I enjoyed how we played, I enjoyed the spirit we showed. If we’d had got the third goal at the end, which we could have done, it would have been fantastic.

“If they’d have nicked a third goal at the end, c'est la vie because I enjoyed the spirit that we showed in the way that we played and I think think we can take massive belief and confidence from the second-half performance and the way we stuck together and kept playing in those circumstances.

“Of course, we can learn from the first half and we will certainly analyse how we get momentum better at the start of away games and don’t give momentum to the home team. But today was always going to be a little bit of an extreme case of that.

“Lots to take (away) but the overriding emotions in there at the moment are that that’s something we can take a lot of positive things from and we know we’re going to face a lot of resilience in the season and we’re going to need a lot of the qualities that we showed today.”

McKenna confirmed that right-back Brandon Williams missed out having been ill.

“Brandon’s ill. He’s had a virus for the last few days, so he’s not been training for the last couple of days,” he said.

“We hoped he might have recovered but no, so hopefully he’s better over the weekend and we’ll see how he is for Tuesday.”