Kieran McKenna reveals his frustration as Ipswich Town left hanging on for victory against 10-man Swansea City at Portman Road
Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna admitted his frustration at the way his side ended their 3-2 home victory over 10-man Swansea and felt the Blues ought to have scored more goals but overall took plenty of positives from the game.
The Suffolk side, who remain second with only goal difference now separating them from leaders Leicester City, managed 22 shots during the game, nine on target.
“Let’s get it right, it shouldn’t have been 3-2,” McKenna said. “There’s bits of frustration in there about that but, of course, there were lots of good things about the game and the way we played.
“The way we overcame adversity and played some really good football and could have had any number of goals, really.
“We should have been out of sight and I didn’t like how we played in the last 15 minutes against the 10 men.
“I didn’t like our concentration levels, I didn’t like our humility to realise that the other team (were still looking for goals), Jamal Lowe’s a very good player, we still have to be concentrating.
“We dropped the concentration levels and that’s a frustration in the dressing room at the moment.
“That’s a good thing because that’s not just a frustration in the staff room, it’s a frustration in the dressing room that we didn’t maintain our standards for the last 15 minutes of that game.”
McKenna says it’s good to still be taking all three points despite there being lessons to be learned.
“Definitely, no doubt about it and that’s been the case in lots of games this year,” he reflected.
“Sometimes something goes against you, like on Tuesday night (at Rotherham) when we didn’t quite do something right on a set piece and we got punished. Other days you don’t, but you’ve still got to try and learn the lessons.
“There’s a lesson in there but on the other hand, massive credit to the group, massive credit for the response, massive credit to how we played throughout the first half, the way we came out in the second half, the way we chased down, built pressure for the third goal. There were some outstanding things in there.
“For us, the process is always just looking at what we did well but also looking at the bits that we can improve and that was one in terms of concentration at the end that the group are frustrated about and will, I’m sure, make us stronger.”
The Northern Irishman was disappointed with the slow start, which saw the Swans take a seventh-minute lead via Jay Fulton, before Jack Taylor set Town on their way with a brilliant strike, his fourth goal of the season and second in two matches.
“It’s quite unusual for us because I think over the last year or two years almost since I’ve been here, we’ve started games really, really well, and especially at home we’ve traditionally come out of the blocks really, really fast,” the Town manager recalled.
“That didn’t quite happen in the first few minutes today. Swansea started the game better and got the goal really early. They looked a little bit sharper in the first few minutes and they scored with their first chance with the set play.
“That’s the margins in football. We had a set play a minute later that Conor (Chaplin) could have scored and if he’d have scored his and they hadn’t have scored theirs, we’d probably have said it was a really good start.
“Strange for us to concede another early goal. Of course, we’ll look at it but sometimes things just do come in cycles a little bit.
“But the response was excellent. Jack’s goal, massive credit for him, a big day for him, deserves hopefully all the plaudits he’ll get for the goal and his all-round performance was excellent, and for the way that we played in the large part of the rest of the game, the chances we created, the penetration that we had.
“As I say, the only frustration in our attacking play is that we didn’t go and get, I won’t put a number on it, but there were a lot of goals out there for us today.”
McKenna was clearly annoyed by the way his team ended the match and he was asked whether he made his frustrations clear and if that was the first time they’d seen that side of him.
“It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve seen that side, but the main thing is that the players are frustrated with it,” he continued.
“Of course, myself and the staff are frustrated with the last 10 minutes or so, but the players are frustrated as well, and I think that is more important.
“We’ll learn from it, as I’ve said, it’s great to have these lessons and still win the game, but we know there’s no way that in the 98th minute that the ball should be coming in our box with a one-goal margin with the way that game played out. A good little marker for us going into the break and one we’ll learn from.”
He added: “We could have scored more, for sure. I think we’re the top goalscorers but we still feel that we can be more clinical.
“Of course, we scored a wonderful first goal as well, but I think we were good value for lots of goals.
“The main thing is that we’re creating plenty of chances in general. I know there are other games where we’re not going to be able to create as many as today because teams set up differently but Swansea came with a really positive, aggressive game plan, came with a high line and back four and in those situations it’s important that we can show that we’re a big threat.”
Town were finally awarded their first penalty of the season eight minutes into the second half after Taylor was fouled by Harrison Ashby, not long after Harry Clarke had had a header chalked off for what looked like little reason.
“They had to take a goal off us on the set piece to give us the penalty, but we got one in the end,” McKenna smiled ruefully.
“That was important to kill the game. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with Clarkey’s goal and that was frustrating because we work so hard on our set play routines and it was a terrifically well-worked routine to score the goal that was disallowed for a block that was pretty innocuous.
“But, of course, we got the penalty a couple of minutes later and that gave us the comfort in the game.”
Omari Hutchinson was among those to catch the eye and McKenna is pleased with the on-loan Chelsea man’s development.
“He’s coming on really well,” he said. “I think from our point of view, the player’s point of view and I know from Chelsea’s point of view, it’s everything you’d want in a loan so far.
“It’s his first loan, he hadn’t played any significant first-team minutes before, he came on against Man City last year, but had played a very, very low number of senior minutes.
“It’s been a really positive experience for everyone so far, from his learning at the training ground first of all, being around a really mature, driven, focused group.
“A really demanding environment where the players train to a high level every day and he’s really bought into that culture, he’s worked hard to be part of things and the players have done a great job making him part of it.
“Then for us, it’s about trying to help develop his game and the great attributes that he has, showing him how he can be more effective in different ways, and he’s definitely made improvements over the last few months and hopefully he’ll continue to do so and he’ll continue to contribute.”
Asked whether he was disappointed with Hutchinson’s end product this afternoon, McKenna added: “I think the main thing for a young player was the way he was getting in the situations, his movement in behind has improved greatly over the last couple of months, the penetration in his game has been really high.
“His pressing, his counter-pressing led to a couple of those chances, so I think with a young player, if you’re showing the attitude to work that he is, if you’re showing an understanding of how he can get in and be dangerous, you can always develop the last pass or the last finish, which he works really, really hard on, and he’s got a great mindset to do that.
“I think the main thing is the big positive of the way he’s threatening the opposition, getting himself into great positions and putting in a great effort for the team off the ball.”
Hutchinson has only completed the full 90 minutes twice since joining the Blues but McKenna says that’s typical of Town’s frontmen.
“I think that’s pretty common with most of our forward players, if you look at that. I wouldn’t know the stats,” he said.
“We play a really intense style, we put a big demand on the players, so it’s very infrequent that we don’t use our five subs and it’s very, very common for four of those subs to be our front four.
“A little bit of it was as he came here, trying to ease him into the team and develop his understanding of what the team needed from him and his relationship with other players.
“So there’s a little bit of not putting too much on him too soon, but also our forwards rotate, they start games or they come in in games.
“I think we’re the team who have scored the most goals off the bench by a bit and he’s learning how to start games, but he’s also, which is really important for a forward player, learning how to come on in games and how to try and impact games immediately when he steps onto the pitch.”
Quizzed on any concerns that Chelsea might recall the 20-year-old in January, McKenna said: “I think they’re pretty flush with left-footed, right-sided attackers, so it’s not a phone call we’re expecting, but with loans you never know, so, of course, we’re respectful, he’s not our player.
“I think at the moment, all sides, our club, certainly the player and his family and his parent club all see the benefits of the exposure that he’s getting here and everyone’s really happy with that situation and I’m there’s a great chance that that will stay the same.”
Full-back Brandon Williams was absent from the squad having missed the Birmingham game through illness and then having returned to the bench at Rotherham on Tuesday.
“He’s still ill, so he’s not been with us in the last few days, hopefully we’ll have him on Monday,” McKenna explained.
Going into the last international break, McKenna said the squad needed it and he says the situation is similar this time around.
“I think I need it after that last five minutes,” he joked. “We’ve had six games in 18 days and throw in a return journey to Rotherham on top of that.
“It’s been a busy spell, so the players are pushing really hard, concentration from a mental point of view but also from a physical point of view, so for a lot of them the break comes at a good time. We’ve got some niggles in the group, some illness in the group, a chance to settle all those things down.
“We’ll train in the early part of next week and then the players will have a few days off and then we’ll have a full week leading into West Brom.
“Of course, not with the full squad because we’ll lose a few players but with a good number of the squad. Will we play a friendly? No, we’ll focus on the training and the recover this time.”