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Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna left delighted with side’s display in hard-fought victory at Swansea City

Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna says he thoroughly enjoyed the Blues’ hard-fought 2-1 win at Swansea City, a proper, tough game he felt required a really good performance from his side in challenging wet conditions.

Nathan Broadhead scored his third goal in three games to give the Blues the lead, Jerry Yates netted a leveller for the Swans before Conor Chaplin netted what would prove to be the winning goal 10 minutes before the break. Town put in a gritty second-half display to claim the three points and their second away win in four days.

“I really enjoyed it, it was a tough game, a proper game and it took a really, really good performance to come out on the right side of it,” McKenna said.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran Mckenna was delighted with what he saw from his side at Swansea City Picture: Barry Goodwin
Ipswich Town manager Kieran Mckenna was delighted with what he saw from his side at Swansea City Picture: Barry Goodwin

“I thought we showed all the best bits of ourselves at different stages of the game. I thought we played some really good football at times in very tough conditions.

“We played some brave football and built through the pitch well and created some good opportunities from it and scored some good goals.

“I thought our organisation to limit them, certainly in free play in terms of opportunities against, was good and, of course, the biggest bit was the commitment and the effort and the resilience in difficult conditions against a good team was absolutely outstanding. Very pleased and proud with what we gave today.”

Conor Chaplin celebrates scoring his 50th Ipswich Town goal at Swansea which proved to be the match-winner for the Blues Picture: Barry Goodwin
Conor Chaplin celebrates scoring his 50th Ipswich Town goal at Swansea which proved to be the match-winner for the Blues Picture: Barry Goodwin

Regarding Chaplin’s goal, a trademark Town team effort involving Cameron Burgess and then Leif Davis, McKenna added: “A great goal. One that we work on and really executed well. Cameron, you can see the benefit of the left-footedness that we’ve missed over the last six weeks when he was away from an attacking point of view, to play the pass.

“And Leif’s first touch is great and the movement in the box is great and there’s no one better stepping onto it than Conor.”

Town had chances to give themselves breathing space but were unable to take them and saw the game out with a solid defensive display after the break.

“I think in that sort of game state, you know the next goal would be really, really important,” he continued. “We knew that at half-time.

“We wanted to come out and try and stay on the front foot as much as possible and try and stay brave and positive in terms of creating chances.

“And I thought for the first part of the second half we did that and we had some good opportunities, but we weren’t able to take one.

“And then when you don’t do that, you know that it’s going to take a different type of performance in the later stages of the game and I thought we managed to show that with the starters.

“And then subs who come on probably don’t get as much credit as if they come on and score a goal, like they have very often, but they came on today and helped the players who were on the pitch from the start of the game see the result out over the line. In general, I thought we saw the game out really, really well.”

Keeper Vaclav Hladky had to make only one big save in the second half but when he had to the Czech was equal to Harry Darling’s deflected effort.

“That’s good for him, I thought his all-round performance was really good,” McKenna said. “It’s very unlikely that we’re going to win away from home without that, to be honest.

“I think it’s easy to take for granted because we’ve done so well in terms of points but this is still a big, big step up, to come to Swansea away from home, a good team, is still a really big step up for us.

“I have to say, I enjoyed that performance, I thought it was as good a performance as good as some of our second half of the season ones last year in League One when we maybe won 3-0 against big football clubs.

“But the level that we’re competing at now, that performance or a similar level performance today got us a hard-fought 2-1 win where we’ve had to show all the different attributes.

“I thought it was an excellent performance and we had to defend our goal well, defenders and Vaz [Hladky] very much part of that but I think that’s the margins that we’re going to have to keep fighting to come out on top of at this level.”

Centre-half Cameron Burgess, not long back from the Asian Cup with Australia, was the standout performer at the back with McKenna also praising his partner Luke Woolfenden.

“Him and Luke, to be fair. I thought Luke did really well on first contacts, I thought both centre-halves were excellent on first contacts,” the Northern Irishman said.

“That’s important for them, we know that’s a big strength of Cameron’s anyway, it’s something that Luke has been working hard on in his game.

“We won a lot of first contacts and, I have to say beyond that then I thought our second contacts on the edge of the box were excellent.

“They do lock down well, they push a lot of bodies towards the counter-pressure, so it’s one thing heading the first ball away but if you’re not really well connected as a team, that’s falling to a midfielder on the edge of the box and they’re having shots.

“The way that our number 10 or our wide players collapsed on that and secured things on the edge of the box that could have been shooting opportunities for them, but time and again we turned them into counter-attack opportunities for us and that was a massive part of the victory today.”

Was it a more pleasing display as it wasn’t a typical Town victory, the Blues having had less of the ball than is usually the case.

“We probably made the mistake of going ahead today!” McKenna joked. “We’re better when we stay behind for a bit longer in the game and the other team let us have the ball!

“I said at the start of the season, it takes all ways to win games at this level and as much as we want to be an attacking, proactive team, we know where we’re at as a team and we’re not going to be that in every game.

“One thing we try and take pride in is finding different ways to win games, whether that’s set plays, counter-attacks, defending, whatever we have to do. We said that we compete with every tool in our artillery to try and win every game and we’ve done that today.”

Town have scored 10 goals in their last three games, picking up seven points, having had a trickier spell over Christmas winning only one in nine. McKenna was asked whether the little dip is now firmly behind his team.

“At Christmas we played Leeds and Leicester and you’re not going to score that many goals [against them],” he reflected.

“Of course, we lost our main striker [George Hirst] in the Boxing Day fixture and have had to adapt for the five or six weeks after that and try different people in different positions than we’d been playing; we lost three strikers in January.

“These things flow over the course of the season and certainly having harder fixtures and having no or less strikers in the building are a big contributor to it.

“The squad’s in a better position now in terms of depth. Kieffer [Moore] and Ali [Al-Hamadi] have brought us different options and we’ve got other bodies back fit and available now and we feel that we can score goals.”

Full-back Davis took his assists tally for the season to 12 and the Blues boss was asked whether the former Leeds man has the potential to play at a higher level.

“I think he certainly can,” he said. “I don’t really have any doubts about that. He still has a lot of room to improve, he’s still improving, he’s still a young player, I think you can honestly say he’s in his second season of senior football, really, I know he had a couple of loans but last year was his first proper year of senior football playing regularly.

“We’re two-thirds of the way through his second season, so he’s got a long way to go, a lot to learn, a lot to keep improving but has he got the ingredients and the potential and the attributes at the next level and do very well at the next level? I think that’s certainly yes.”

Following recent reports that he turned down the chance to manage Crystal Palace, McKenna was asked whether he believes he is capable of managing in the Premier League already.

“I don’t think I’ve had the question from that angle!” He smiled before taking a long pause. “I think there are really good managers at every level.

“I’ve worked in the Premier League as a first-team coach [at Manchester United] with a big contribution to some big wins and some good seasons there.

“I know the level, I’ve operated at the level, I think I can work with players at that level, I think I can help players and teams at that level and, yes, I think ultimately in my career that is where I’ll want to work and want to make an impact. But I think there are other coaches in the chain as well, who can do that.

“I’m enjoying my job here, it’s a fantastic football club, it’s a great group to work with and that’s where the focus is at the moment and enjoying the really good season we’re having.”

Asked whether there was any mention of second-placed Leeds and Southampton in third both having won prior to kick-off, McKenna insisted: “Honestly, zero. I know I’m not putting any stock on it. I don’t think the players are either.

“As I’ve said before, we have no energy left to give, so if we were going to use up energy worrying or thinking about the level of teams that are there, then we certainly wouldn’t have enough to do what the players did out there today.”

Is it difficult to produce a performance in the wake of those results? “I know it has zero impact on me, and that’s the honest truth. And I don’t think it has on the players.

“Sometimes you worry with things like that that it will infiltrate the group and they will start to worry about other teams’ results and things but I honestly don’t get any sense of that from the group whatsoever.

“Their feeling is shared with my feeling, they know that they’re doing incredible to be as competitive as we have been at this level.

“They know that’s where our expectations were or are and they know that we laid out at the start of the season perform as well as we possibly can to impose our style of play, to keep developing our culture and do our utmost in every game. We’ve reviewed those goals again in January and that’s where our focus is.

“Honestly, I don’t think it’s having any impact on the players and certainly not having one on the staff.”

Daniel Farke had made similar comments after Leeds won 4-0 at Swansea on Tuesday and McKenna was asked whether it is a conscious decision for managers to take that approach.

“I believe it’s the best way,” he said. “It may be easier for us to compare with last year in League One. It was still our approach to not talk too much about points total or that we need to win two of the next three games or anything like that.

“Our approach last season when we were, I think, the most dominant team in the league was to just focus on our performances and we didn’t speak too much about the other teams really or the points that we would need.

“And I think that was good because if you did that, if you focused on points totals and you focused on what people would typically tell you you need, then it would have been 90 points for promotion last year.

“And in the end we needed 98 points to get promoted and Sheffield Wednesday missed out [on automatic promotion] on 96 points.

“Again, if we spent much time on it this year, people would probably say if you get 90 points you’d get promoted from the Championship, but I’m pretty certain that that’s not going to do it this year.

“I think our position is a little bit different from the other teams that we’re competing with this year.

“I know last year, as much as we never mentioned it with the players, I was more conscious of Plymouth’s results or Sheffield Wednesday’s results, you took more glances at the table.

“I can honestly say this year Leicester, Leeds, Southampton, we know we are competing against three of the strongest teams in the history of the Championship that are abnormally strong for this level.

“And we know that, certainly internally, there’s zero pressure on ourselves and we’re just enjoying the season, enjoying each game as it comes and certainly aren’t going to spend any time worrying about those teams.”

Is it a bit easier competing with three Goliaths? “I think it makes it easier to completely block out other teams’ results. I don’t feel that it’s having any impact on our group whatsoever because they’ve been so strong, they’ve been so consistent, the points totals of the four teams are really abnormally strong, certainly Leicester’s is probably going to break the Championship record.

“For us, we know that that’s not something that we’re going to waste any energy emotionally by comparing ourselves to that and we’re not going to waste any energy getting upset if one of those teams have won on a Saturday because we expect them to win and we know that we need all that energy to try and compete with Swansea, to compete with Millwall on Wednesday night, to compete with Rotherham on Tuesday night.

“I think where we’re coming from last season, where those teams are coming from, it probably is making it easier for the players to not feel any pressure and to not focus on their results at all.”

Asked whether he prefers being the under dog or whether he’d prefer to have their riches, McKenna laughed: “No, we’d rather have parachute payments, we’d rather have more Financial Fair Play wriggle room, we’d rather have been able to add to the squad more in the summer and we’d rather have been able to add more to the squad in January.

“That’s the honest truth of that. The situation is what it is and we’re making the most of our situation. We’ve got a fantastic group here, a group with consistency. That can be a big benefit as well, a group with fantastic humility and spirit, that can be a big benefit and we’re making the very best of our situation.

“But would we rather have more good players, would the players in the dressing room rather have more players of a really high calibre come in to share the load with them? I think they would all say yes.”