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Bersant Celina closing in on Ipswich Town return ahead of facing Bolton Wanderers side who Kieran McKenna says are better than results suggest



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Kieran McKenna has no new issues in his Ipswich Town squad ahead of Saturday's Sky Bet League One fixture at Bolton Wanderers (3pm) while Bersant Celina is 'knocking on the door' for a return.

The Suffolk side are bidding to make it three straight victories since the former Manchester United coach took up the reins following the sacking of Paul Cook.

The humiliating 5-2 defeat to The Trotters at Portman Road in September was one of the most painful afternoons under the later's tenure. But McKenna has not been focusing on avenging that in the quest for another precious three points as they look to close the gap to the play-off places, currently standing at eight.

Wes Burns, who has been in impressive form of late, in action in the 5-2 home defeat to Bolton Wanderers earlier this season Picture: Barry Goodwin
Wes Burns, who has been in impressive form of late, in action in the 5-2 home defeat to Bolton Wanderers earlier this season Picture: Barry Goodwin

Ahead of the trip to Ian Evatt's 18th placed side he said: "It is not something I have planned to delve into a lot with the players.

"I've watched the game back and I can understand some of the issues and difficulties there was in the game. But it is not one we've used as a big motivational or tactical tool.

"I want us to focus on the here and now. We feel like we're in a good place as a group.

Christian Walton made his debut on loan to Ipswich from Brighton in the 5-2 home defeat to Bolton in mid September Picture: Barry Goodwin
Christian Walton made his debut on loan to Ipswich from Brighton in the 5-2 home defeat to Bolton in mid September Picture: Barry Goodwin

"We're in a different place and we feel Bolton are probably in a different place in their season.

"It will be different personnel that will play in the game for both teams, quite considerably, so it's not something we are going to focus a lot of our preparation on."

He added: "I'm sure individually a few of the players who played in the game will feel like they want to prove a point against a direct opponent, or if they had a tough day they want to make sure they have a better day Saturday.

"But it's not something we have spoken about a lot as a group and it is not something I plan to speak about too much."

Bersant Celina, who scored a goal of the season contender against Crewe at Portman Road at the end of November, has been pushing his claim for a return from injury ahead of the trip to Bolton Picture: Barry Goodwin
Bersant Celina, who scored a goal of the season contender against Crewe at Portman Road at the end of November, has been pushing his claim for a return from injury ahead of the trip to Bolton Picture: Barry Goodwin

Town go into the match sitting 11th in the table after last weekend's impressive 4-0 victory at Gillingham which came off the back of a 1-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers.

But McKenna revealed they have been preparing for a different challenge up at The University of Bolton Stadium against The Trotters.

"Bolton are a different style of team to Gillingham and to Wycombe even," he said.

"We know they will give us different types of problems. They typically build up from the back quite well and will look to play through the pitch.

"They have pace in front but they also have good midfielders who can get on the ball and look to dictate possession.

"They like to take the ball themselves. They have some good movements and some good patterns so it's going to be a different challenge in terms of the style we're coming up against.

"We need to make sure we do our fundamentals well as a team and if we do that it gives us a good chance to win the game."

And despite the free-flowing passing moves which brought about four goals at Gillingham, it is their defensive work which has pleased him the most in his first two games in charge.

He said: "What's been a really good foundation in our last two performances is how we've been without the ball.

"It's not just the goalkeeper and the defensive unit but starting from the front, the way we've put pressure on the other teams.

"We've made it difficult for them to have any time on the ball to get their head up to be able to play passes where they want to play them.

"That's given us a good chance as a team, to squeeze the line and keep the ball away from our goal a little bit more, especially in the game last weekend.

"It's been good, I think the players have brought into that really well."

Changing last weekend's line-up, which produced a display that led to four players being named in the League One team of the Week, would be a big call.

But McKenna revealed he has plenty of options with no fresh injury or illness issues.

"We're still in a really strong position," he confirmed.

"Obviously it's a long training week so over the course of a week you can get one or two little things but we have good numbers and no major issues.

"At the moment, touch wood, there is no big issues with illness so we're in as strong a position as we were with lots of bodies available and players competing to get in the squad.

"It's good to have such good options available."

Kosovo international Bersant Celina is yet to appear under McKenna due to his recent injury but the former Manchester City and Swansea flair player is another now under consideration.

"Bersant is not so far away. He's been training with us for a week or two now getting stronger," he said.

"He's had his issues over the last month or so but he's been competing well in training and he's certainly knocking on the door.

"Hayden (Coulson) is a little bit further away, he is still working his way back from his injury. Things are not progressing as well as they hoped and thought it would do.

"He's not training with the main group yet so we will have to wait a bit longer before we can see him in action with the group."

Bolton go into the weekend's game just three points above the relegation zone, following three straight defeats.

But McKenna believes they are still very dangerous opponents who they will have to be at their best against to ensure a positive result.

Asked what he made of Tuesday's 2-0 home loss to Wycombe, he said: "I thought they played well. To be honest I don't think they're a million miles away in all the games I've seen.

"In the Wycombe game during the week they had more possession, crosses, shots, corners; I thought they had the better chances, easily equal chances in the game against a really strong Wycombe team that we know how difficult they can be.

"They have made some good signings already in January, they've got a strong squad so I think yes, they're in a spell where they haven't had the results but I'm sure they will want to improve that and Ian will want to be working hard with the group.

"But honestly speaking, in terms of the performances, from what I've seen I don't think they're a million miles away."

He added: "It's clear for us to see where the challenges are going to be and it's going to be a big challenge.

"On the form guide we've won the last couple and they haven't won but I don't think that necessarily has a massive bearing going into the game.

"It's up to us to impose ourselves on the game and if we can start well and if we can get the first goal playing in a really agressive dominant manner then that is possibly when form can come into it.

"Starting the game we know it is a big challenge, it's not a team I see playing poorly.

"I know they will come out of the traps and be desperate to get a good result and we need to be ready for it."