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Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna says early West Brom goals in each half set the tone in his 100th game in charge

Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna felt the nature and timing of West Brom’s two goals dictated the feel of the performance and context of the game as his 100th game in charge of the Blues ended in a 2-0 defeat at the Hawthorns.

Darnell Furlong netted in the fifth minute for the Baggies and Grady Diangana two minutes after half-time as the Blues’ 12-match unbeaten run came to an end.

“It wasn’t our night,” McKenna said. “I think the goals, the nature of the goals and the timing of the goals dictated the whole feel of the performance and the context of the game, really.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna saw his side fall to their first away defeat in 18 matches Picture: Ady Kerry
Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna saw his side fall to their first away defeat in 18 matches Picture: Ady Kerry

“It was always going to be a difficult game tonight, coming here after an international break and for a Saturday night game was always going to be very difficult. But to concede on the first corner that they get, makes it really, really difficult.

“We know that West Brom are good at defending leads and in the first half we were pretty comfortable, we were stable in the game, but they’re a hard team to create big chances against.

“We came out at the start of the second half well, we changed a few little things at half-time and I would have fancied us to push on at the start of the second half.

“We did start well for a few minutes, came close with a cross that goes in and earns a corner, but then they score from our corner and that set the context and the feel of the whole second half, really.

“Obviously, it wasn’t our night, credit to the opponent. I think the goals had a massive impact on the feel and the flow of the game, and that’s the main thing that we need to improve on.

“But thankfully we have lots of games coming thick and fast. We’ll have to take it tonight and move on quickly to Wednesday.”

The win moved West Brom up to fifth and McKenna believes the Baggies will be among those challenging come May.

“I think it’s clear to see the quality of their team, the physicality, the athleticism, the amount of Premier League experience they have, the amount of top-end Championship experience they have and they’re well-organised as well,” he reflected.

“They’re a top, top team for this level. It’s a difficult game to come here anyway and to come and concede early, it makes it really, really difficult.”

The loss was only Town’s third in the league in 2023 and their first away in the league since losing 2-1 in the fog at Oxford in January, the Blues having established a new club record of 17 away games unbeaten.

McKenna says it’s now a case of looking ahead to the next match, Millwall’s visit to Portman Road on Wednesday (8pm).

“That’s always going to be the case,” he added. “We’re going to lose games this season and it’s about moving onto the next one and about the response that we produce.

“More so, it’s not like we need a big response, we lost a really tough game away to West Brom. We just get ready for Millwall now.

“We won’t ignore the lessons from the game, we’ll reflect on it pretty quickly and we’ll move onto the next game. That’s the nature of the season, it’s a 46-game season and we will lose some games.

“No problem with the players’ effort, no problem with our intent. A couple of mistakes for two goals that hurt us and we’ll learn from that and we’ll move on.”

Town conceded within the first 15 minutes for the sixth game running, something McKenna says has been looked at and discussed but which wasn’t his main frustration from tonight’s match.

“Of course, it’s something that we have analysed and spoken about with the group over the break,” he said.

“But for me, it’s more about how we defended the set play. You’re away from home. No matter how you start a game like this, they’re probably going to get a set play in the first 10 minutes and you have to defend it better than we did.

“Whether that first corner had come in the fifth minute or the 25th minute or the 50th minute, we would have to had to defend it better than that.

“On the flip-side, our first corner, we created a pretty good chance for Jack [Taylor] that we didn’t take.

“I think more than obsessing about the start, we’re aware of it. I’ve been here for two years and it’s not been an issue for us until quite recently.

“But rather than obsessing about the start tonight, we had a really good energy and liked the feel of us in the first couple of minutes, but the first corner that we had to defend, we didn’t defend, so I think it’s more about reflecting on that.

“We’ve been strong on set plays this season, I don’t think we’d conceded one up until Rotherham, but now we’ve conceded a set play against Rotherham, an early set play against Swansea, an early set play tonight, so it’s not like we’re being battered at the start of the games with chances, it’s just defending the set play moments better.”

On-loan Chelsea winger Omari Hutchinson missed the match having been taken ill and would appear a doubt ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Lions.

“He was sick in the night, so left the hotel this morning and went back,” McKenna continued. “So we’ll see how he is on Monday.”