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Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna takes positives from Watford draw at Portman Road

Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna felt there were plenty of positives to be taken from his side’s performance, particularly in the first half, despite the Blues being held to a 0-0 draw by Watford at Portman Road.

The goalless draw, Town’s third of the season, saw McKenna’s side move back to second in the table but miss out on a chance to return to top spot.

“I think the first half was a really good performance against a dangerous Watford side,” he said. “We controlled them to next to nothing really in terms of their chances and we had a couple of really big moments.

Kieran McKenna said it was not Ipswich Town’s night in terms of chances finding the back of the net Picture: Barry Goodwin
Kieran McKenna said it was not Ipswich Town’s night in terms of chances finding the back of the net Picture: Barry Goodwin

“It was difficult to create chances, they defended really deep, really compact, they’ve got three big centre-halves back in the penalty box, so it was difficult in that context to create a huge number of big chances.

“But in the first half we created a couple of what would have been really, really good goals for us and it just wasn’t our night in terms of them going in the back of our net.

“I think first half, we would more than deserved to go in with a lead. We didn’t manage to get it.

Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna felt his side controlled Watford in the first half. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna felt his side controlled Watford in the first half. Picture: Barry Goodwin

“Second half, we didn’t manage to create as much as we would have wanted or build as much pressure as we would have wanted.

“We have to respect the opponent, they’re always going to have a spell in the game, they had a spell of possession, but having said that, we still gave away very few chances.

“We defended well, controlled them to very little and managed to build some pressure in the last 10 or 15 minutes but again, credit to their organisation and motivation to defend their box so deep and with so many bodies, they made it very difficult for us to create.

“We take the positives from the performance, we take the big positive of the clean sheet and, of course, we take the point which are all hard-fought in the Championship, especially this time of the season.”

Perhaps the biggest of those big moments was Watford keeper Daniel Bachmann’s stop from Kieffer Moore’s header.

“A great save and it would have been a great goal, really,” McKenna reflected. “We had some really good moves in the first half that were close and that would have been, not a perfect goal, but how we were going to create against that low block today, that probably would have been as good as it could have got.

“Similar the one that Jack [Taylor] walks onto that probably doesn’t even go down as a big chance but we worked it really well with Kayden [Jackson] and Omari [Hutchinson].

“Kayden cuts it back perfect to Jack and he has a free shot from the penalty spot and the shot just happens to smack off Nathan Broadhead.

“Sometimes you have days like that where it just doesn’t go your way. We’ve had plenty of days where it has, so over the course of the season, you just have to keep doing the right things and we did plenty of good things tonight.”

Jackson and Taylor were two of four changes along with George Edmundson and Harry Clarke, replacing Conor Chaplin, Massimo Luongo, Luke Woolfenden and Axel Tuanzebe in the XI.

“We knew going into this spell there were going to be five games in 15 days, really difficult games,” the Blues boss continued. “All the games have gone to the last second, today again has gone to the last second.

“It’s important to be able to freshen up the team and show the trust in everyone and I thought the boys who came into the team did a good job. We’ll have another fresh look at it for Saturday.

“The boys came in and did really well, I thought. Kayden and Omari and Harry Clarke’s link-up on the right-hand side in the first half was excellent.

“Jack gave us some good things on the ball as well and George came in the team and, like he has done every time he’s come in this season, he was really solid and performed really well.

“It was a shame George went off with the injury at the end, it probably robbed us of maybe one more attacking substitution that we would have liked to have been able to make, which is a big part of us chasing the game down late on. We weren’t able to do that, we had to use it on a centre-half.

“We’ve got a great record of late goals but at the same time we’re in a busy run of games, the opposition found the motivation to defend their goal with a lot of bodies, nine, 10, 11 players in the 20, 30 yards in front of the goal and in that situation it’s hard to create big, big chances and sometimes you’re relying on putting pressure on and the ball falling your way and it didn’t quite seem to fall our way tonight.

“It has done on plenty of other occasions, I don’t think we can complain too much, we just have to take the positives.”

Regarding Edmundson’s injury, he said: “He’s rolled his ankle. He walked in to the dressing room, so that’s a positive, so hopefully that’s not going to be anything major. Same one as he injured last season? I don’t know.”

Last night saw leaders Leicester beaten 1-0 at Millwall and Leeds draw 0-0 at home to Sunderland with tonight’s result moving the Blues ahead of the Whites by a point and behind the Foxes, who have a game in hand, on goal difference.

But McKenna says not too much attention was paid to those results or what’s become a very edgy end to the automatic promotion race with Town having just four matches remaining.

“I just focus on ourselves, I think you could see in the performance in the first half,” he said. “I thought we played with no tension, no worries, no difference about the stage of the season.

“I thought it was a really good performance, it didn’t look like it was the 41st game or the 14th game or whatever, we were just playing as us, and that’s what we wanted to do.

“We managed to do that for a good chunk of the game. It shows the mindset of the players, where we’re at.

“We’re just trying to perform as well as we can. We know we won’t do it every game but we’ll look to do the same on Saturday [when Middlesbrough visit], we’ll look to do as well as we can, focus on ourselves.

“Of course, pick up as many points as we can. There are not too many league games left, so we’ll see where we’re at.”

As things stand, Town’s fate is in their own hands. Win all four games and they’re up, but McKenna isn’t thinking that way.

“We’re not thinking about anyone’s destiny, to be honest,” he insisted. “Norwich are a strong side with really good players, Watford are a strong side with really good players. We want to win every game, we try and win every game, but we can never take that for granted.

“We still have to keep the perspective that we played that first half tonight against a strong Watford team with some players still from their Premier League squad, a deep and high quality squad and we’ve really, really dominated large aspects of that game.

“Our focus is just on the next game. Every game is really hard fought, every point is hard won. We’ve had to fight really hard tonight and we know it’s going to take a helluva an effort and a helluva performance to get anything from Saturday as well.

“That’s where our focus is really, not on anyone else or the table, it’s just on trying to get ready for the next game. It certainly takes that for this group in this division, and they’ve done that really well.”