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Ipswich Town manger Kieran McKenna hails ‘world-class’ Wes Burns goal in ‘outstanding’ first-half display against Coventry City

Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna hailed Wes Burns’ brilliant goal just before half-time as ‘probably his favourite’ in the nearly two years since he took charge of the Blues.

The Wales international curled a brilliant strike with the outside of his right boot into the top corner of the net six minutes before half-time to put Town 2-0 in front against Coventry at Portman Road. The Sky Blues later pulled one back deep in second-half injury time as McKenna’s men, who remain second in the Sky Bet Championship, won 2-1, their 17th out of 18 home wins in the league.

“I think it was probably my favourite goal since I got here, to be honest,” a smiling McKenna enthused.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna Kieran McKenna (left) does not think he has seen a better goal from his side than what he witnessed from Wes Burns Picture: Barry Goodwin
Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna Kieran McKenna (left) does not think he has seen a better goal from his side than what he witnessed from Wes Burns Picture: Barry Goodwin

“Not just the finish. The finish is world class, you’re not going to find a better outside of the foot finish anywhere in the world this year, probably. Incredible finishing technique from Wes.

“But the move that led to it as well, for me. I could see every bit of us in the way the players were thinking, the way the players were moving, connecting in deep areas, waiting for the exact right moment to recognise when the extra player came to the press to then find the release pass to the opposite side, and they executed it so well.

“For me, when Conor [Chaplin] finds that switch of play, that’s a third of a goal for me anyway because we’ve executed an important part of our process really, really well.

“And then you saw the gear change from the team, the way we the accelerate, players breaking through the pitch, the speed of the move goes up, runners on the top line, good decision to come back again, runners on the top line, switch of play to the width, overlapping run that frees up the space and then a world-class finish. For me, a top, top goal as a team and individually and certainly one of my favourites.”

In his TownTV interview McKenna had joked about wanting Burns to use his left foot more often.

“A funny one really,” he said. “We’ve been talking about that since we started working with Wes because he’s got a really good left foot and we’re always encouraging him to use it more for in-swinging crosses or when he comes inside the pitch to shoot, but he likes shooting off the outside of his right foot.

“We usually tell him to use his left and I think I might tell him if he has 100 shots from there, he might score more if he used his left, but I don’t think you would have had a more beautiful finish than that was going to be.”

Kieran McKenna saw his side continue their impressive home form against Coventry Picture: Barry Goodwin
Kieran McKenna saw his side continue their impressive home form against Coventry Picture: Barry Goodwin

McKenna was also pleased with his side’s first goal, Nathan Broadhead having threaded in George Hirst, who finished confidently.

“A really good goal,” he recalled. “A really good release pass from Nathan and George is looking confident in those situations, to be fair.

“He breaks free and, like I said yesterday, there are not many strikers who are 6ft 3in tall and on Wednesday night you can stand a cross up to him and he’ll win nod downs, but who can then also run behind the backline in the way that George can. He took it really, really well.”

Regarding the performance as a whole, McKenna was similarly gushing: “I thought we were outstanding, I have to say. We can’t underestimate how hard it is to win a game in this division against a team of that quality just because we’ve done it regularly.

“I thought in the first half we were outstanding. I loved our intensity off the ball, our pressing from the front was really, really good.

“It was hard. Coventry changed how they have been playing, played more midfielders, more bodies inside the pitch, the pressure was hard, but we did really, really well with it.

“I really liked our work on the ball. We were excellent for the second goal but right the way through the first half especially, the control whenever they didn’t jump and they left us the spare man and the execution to go through the gears whenever they did jump and left us a spare man higher up the pitch, was really, really good.

“Created good chances and were good value for a 2-0 lead at half-time, which playing against Coventry after having had a midweek game as well is an outstanding effort.

“Second half, we knew they would make changes, they’d got really good forward players on the bench.

“We knew they would change things tactically. They’re possibly the best counter-attacking team in the league, so you don’t want an open game against them when you’re 2-0 up. We had to control the game with the ball.

“Certainly we could have got higher up the pitch. I thought our intent to control it with the ball was pretty good, but we didn’t utilise the spare man to get us higher up the pitch and control the game in their half enough, so too much of our circulation was in deep areas and then you’re never too far from your own goal.

“So we could have executed a bit better in the second half, but having said that, the players worked their socks off and apart from the penalty which was a moment when we weren’t really in danger and the own goal in the 95th plus seven seconds or whatever it was, I don’t think they had a good chance from open play and I thought our defensive play was excellent on the whole as well.”

A display up there with his team’s best? “Not necessarily, I just think every game is different and I don’t think you can compare. Maybe more in the context of coming off a difficult away game last Saturday to then have home games on Wednesday and Saturday, a quick turnaround, a turnaround that we never had in League One, it was always Tuesday-Saturday. Wednesday night to Saturday is a quick turnaround.

“I thought the first half was a top, top performance. The second half, we did enough to win the game. If the whistle blows on 95 minutes, we win 2-0. I think there’s probably a foul on Brandon as he heads in the own goal, so I’m not going to let that take the shine off the performance.

“We could have done some things better in the second half but all in all, I thought it was a really good performance.”

With his team having made a habit of scoring goals from different parts of the pitch, rather than just from close range inside the box, he said: “Look, I’d love to say we worked on that with Wes but no, I don’t think we can take any credit for that one.

“We try and have different threads as I said on Wednesday night, different ways to score a goal.

“Yes, there are certain types of goals we score repetitively and we did probably more last season make a conscious reflection that we were going to need to score more goals from outside the box, and that’s why we brought a Jack Taylor into the squad, who has scored a couple of great goals from outside the box.

“So it’s good to have people who have different qualities in your squad and can score from different areas. And of course being able to shoot from deep is a really, really important one as well.”

McKenna wasn’t overly concerned about not keeping a clean sheet: “I’m not going to let it stress me today, to be honest, because it was 95 minutes, five minutes into added time in which we didn’t concede, and they didn’t score, we scored for them. I’m not going to get too upset about it.

“We defended well across the game, gave away very few chances in open play. On Wednesday night, we defended well across the game, gave away very few chances from open play.

“Our xG against in the last two games from open play has been really, really low, so if we keep performing like that, we won’t concede too many goals.”

The one negative for the Blues was both Williams and Massimo Luongo picking up their fifth yellow card meaning they’ll miss next week’s game at Middlesbrough.

“Yes, but that’s football,” McKenna reflected. “I said it yesterday that the players had to play the game properly or we wouldn’t have been able to compete in the game.

”Massimo made a foul, they had a lot of bodies in the middle of the pitch in the first half and he and Samy [Morsy] did terrific. He went to make a tackle, I thought he might have got the ball live, but I’ve not seen it back. Yellow card.

“Brandon gets a yellow card. It is what it is. We’ve got Middlesbrough next Saturday but we’ve got Watford three days later away from home, it’s an incredibly tough double-header, so at least we’ll have two fresh players come Tuesday.”

McKenna might well have left one or both of them out of one of the next two fixtures in any case and he says he’ll need to use his squad over the course of the month.

“We’re going to need some rotation,” he added. “Certainly when you look at Middlesbrough, Watford, Norwich and when you look at then Leeds, Leicester, QPR, Stoke in the space of nine days, we’re going to need to rotate.

“I’m sure Massimo would have liked to have played against his former team, but he misses a game and it’ll be someone else’s opportunity.”

Asked if teams are genuinely fearing coming to Portman Road, in light of Coventry manager Mark Robins talking about his side being a bit timid and intimidated in the first half, he said: “I don’t know. Look, we have full respect for them because they have a top manager, they were a kick away from the Premier League last year and have brought in really good players.

“We just try and be respectful of the opponent, there’s definitely a few instances lately where teams have changed strategy of shape and again today maybe it was just freshness.

“But they took two forward players out for two more midfield-type players and tried to clog up the middle of the pitch.

“So I think there is a little bit of evidence of teams changing their defensive strategy from what they’ve been using in the previous games before that against us. In terms of how other teams view us, I honestly don’t think about it too much.

“We spoke to the players before the game. After last Saturday, when the game didn’t go our way people want to turn a narrative one way. Then we win Wednesday, we score an early goal and we’re on TV and everyone wants to build you up.

“And one of our strengths as a team is just staying really level and respecting the next opponent, an whatever the outcome of the last game is just learn from it and get ready for the next.”