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Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna gives thoughts on memorable night at Coventry City as Blues take giant step towards Premier League

Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna felt the Blues’ 2-1 win at Coventry, which put his side a point from the Premier League, was an up-and-down affair with the Town getting caught up in the game state and the outcome.

Cameron Burgess netted the winner in the 69th minute, after Kieffer Moore gave the Blues the lead on eight before Haji Wright levelled for the Sky Blues.

“As games are at this stage of the season, there’s extra tension in them, extra emotion attached to them, we know the outcome is so important,” McKenna said.

Kieran McKenna felt his side got caught up in the game state and the outcome. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Kieran McKenna felt his side got caught up in the game state and the outcome. Picture: Barry Goodwin

“It was an up and down game, I think it’s fair to say. We had spells where we played really well, spells where we were a big, big threat in the game, spells where we defended well, spells where we invited too much pressure on ourselves and probably got caught up in the game state and holding onto a lead and probably holding to an outcome more than imposing ourselves as we could.

“But also spells where we showed great resilience because you’re going to have to do that at points.

“We showed a great range of qualities, we had the chances to win the game, we had the chances to kill the game off, we had the better chances in the game, I think we should have had a penalty to go 3-1 up as well.

“It was really hard fought, against a good team playing, as we expected, with not too much pressure, so their technical level was really, really high and we had to show a great range of qualities to get a win that was really, really sweet and really enjoyable in front of the supporters.”

The Town players and staff celebrated with the travelling support afterwards, something which will live long in the memory.

“It was a great moment, no doubt,” he reflected. “We’ve been blessed to have a few of them over the last couple of years, that’s for sure.

“And you have to enjoy it. I always say to the players, it’s not about the destination. For us ,and for me certainly, a lot of the enjoyment comes from the journey and each step along the way.

“Take out the stage of the season, coming here to a very good team, who have brought in very good players, have got a vastly experienced manager, who have just been to the FA Cup semi-final and performed admirably, to come and defeat them in their stadium in such an exciting game is a great night to enjoy in isolation.

“And when it’s this stage of the season and there are things on the line, it makes it an even more memorable night for everyone involved.”

Regarding goalscorer Burgess and his teammates in the defence, he said: “I thought the boys at the back stood up really well to Wright and [Ellis] Simms, two forwards Coventry have who can hurt any team, not just at this level.

“I know we conceded, but some of the team defending was very good, but you could say Axel [Tuanzebe], George [Edmundson] and Cameron, the way they stood up to that threat as a three in most of those battles was really, really good and Cameron did that as well.

“I think they were both disappointed, Cameron and George, with the goal that went in, there were little mistakes in there, but they reflected the attitude of the group both of them, their response to that was instant, moved on straight away and Cameron’s gone up the other end and scored a goal. That’s great for him and great for us.”

Regarding the decision to started Edmundson rather than Luke Woolfenden at right centre-half, he added: “Different things. He’s never let us down and he didn’t again tonight. He’s stepped in in big games and big moments and stepped in against certain profiles of strikers where his attributes are really, really important for us.

Kieran McKenna hailed his side for showing a great range of qualities. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Kieran McKenna hailed his side for showing a great range of qualities. Picture: Barry Goodwin

“He’s done it throughout the season. It’s important that I’m consistent with the players if I’m saying I trust them all and we have to stick to what we’ve done and what we’ve done well.

“It’s important that we do that even at the end of busy seasons and I trust everyone in that dressing room to contribute, and I knew George would come in tonight and do a good job, and he certainly did that.”

Town have scored numerous great goals this season but it was a scruffy one which put them within touching distance of the top flight.

“It doesn’t make it any better but definitely doesn’t make it any worse,” McKenna smiled. “They all count at this stage. I’ve not seen it back how it manages to scruff in.

Kieran McKenna described the full-time scenes as ‘a great moment’. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Kieran McKenna described the full-time scenes as ‘a great moment’. Picture: Barry Goodwin

“It came at a stage of the game where we were creating some big chances, playing some good football.

“I thought Jeremy [Sarmiento]’s turn and little slide pass for George Hirst was a fantastic bit of play.

“It came at a stage where we were knocking the door for more goals, Nathan [Broadhead] hit the cross-bar, we should have had a penalty at that stage of the game.

“The goal was coming and sometimes it’s just pressure and putting constant pressure on the other team’s goal and the ball will find a way to go in, and thankfully it did that.”

Asked how quickly thoughts turned to Saturday’s home game against Huddersfield from which the Blues need just a point to return to the Premier League for the first time in 22 years, he said: “Really quickly, to be fair. And it wasn’t just me. The players were on it pretty much straight away.

“We know we’re in a really good position, we’ve put ourselves in a really good position, but we also know that the narrative will be that we’re nearly there.

“But in reality, we’ve got a really tough match on Saturday. I’ve not seen one or not been involved in a game in the Championship yet that wasn’t hard fought and I’m not expecting anything different on Saturday.

“We know we’re going to have to deliver a performance. We know we’re going to have to fight really, really hard for it, we know it’s going to take a great range of qualities.

“But the good thing is that they’re qualities that we’ve shown before and experiences that we’ve been through before and we can utilise those and use that strength and try and deliver one more big performance.”

McKenna says he’ll have no problem keeping his squad’s feet on the ground ahead of Saturday’s big match.

“I don’t think there are any big concerns for me about that,” he said. “There’s enough experience in there and those who don’t have the experience are the ones we’ll talk to because it’s a football match, it’s 11 high quality Championship professional footballers with a lot of pride, who aren’t going to come and hand us anything on a plate on Saturday.

“We’re going to have to fight for it, we’re going to have to work for it. I think the players know that themselves but I’m sure they’ll be getting around one another and reminding themselves of that over the next couple of days, blocking out any external noise.

“Of course, when it comes to the day, there’s going to be a fantastic atmosphere and loads of things to enjoy and boost you in your performance and try and make it better for us and more difficult for the opposition.

“But when the whistle blows, it’s about being dialled in for 90 minute-performances. We’ve been so often for the last 45 games and now we need to do it in the 46th.”

How confident is he that the group will get it done, McKenna responded: “I’ve got a lot of belief in them, that’s for sure and a lot of belief in what we’ve done and the consistency we’ve shown and how we prepare for games, how we concentrate throughout games and how we get our identity out there on the pitch that gives us a great to chance to win games.

“So I’ve got a lot of belief in all those things and, of course, that gives us a great chance to get a result.

“But at the same time, I know it’s a football match, it’s two teams in the same division, one team who were in a lower division the season before. A Huddersfield team with a lot of good players, proud professionals, who are going to come to do a job to try and stop us, so anything can happen in the match. I don’t expect it to be all smooth sailing or all to go our way.

“Everyone’s going to have to cope with that, there’s going to be tension in the game for sure, as there is at this stage of the season when you’re fighting for things. It’ll be about doing enough of the right things to give us the best chance to come out on top of that.”

Asked what the most important factor will be on Saturday, McKenna said: “We've been here before so that's a bonus. Finishing it wasn't the last game of the season last year but it was the decisive game at home [the 6-0 win against Exeter].

“It's about recovering well from a quick turnaround of games, first and foremost. Of course, it's about getting any distractions out of the way - logistics, tickets, it's about getting all that parked out of the way as early as possible in the week and getting it all boxed off tomorrow.

“And then the training ground will be as normal on Thursday and Friday, it will be preparation, tactically preparing the game, mentally preparing the game, trying to get all of our details right.

“And then we'll go to the stadium on Saturday to try and deliver a performance. Of course, there's going to be a special atmosphere around the ground, but there's been a special atmosphere for so many games, we've been playing to a full house now for over two years.

“There's been a fantastic atmosphere so many times, this is going to be another one. Of course, we'll try and use that for fuel. The supporters will try and make it a difficult atmosphere for the opposition, but for us it will be about when the whistle blows executing and doing our jobs.”