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Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna ‘very proud of performance’ as side draw 3-3 at Hull City to be left ‘in a wonderful position’

Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna reflected on the ‘wonderful position’ his side is in following a 3-3 draw at Hull City that left him ‘very proud’.

The Blues now need four points from their final two games to confirm their return to the Premier League for the first time in 22 years following a rip-roaring encounter at the MKM Stadium.

“It was an emotional game, I thought it was a wonderful game between two good teams,” McKenna said.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna saw his side lose the lead three times at the MKM Stadium Picture: Barry Goodwin
Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna saw his side lose the lead three times at the MKM Stadium Picture: Barry Goodwin

“I thought there were so, so many positives in our performance. I saw so many of the things that I love about the team, that I love about the club and the way we’re going about our business.

“That’s the business end of the season, there’s a lot riding on it and it’s fantastic to be involved.

“Very proud of the performance. Of course, we feel like we could have got the win out of it. On the other hand, it’s a point away from home against a good team with lots of good players and a good coach, who were really throwing absolutely everything at it to try and keep their season alive as well.

Omari Hutchinson took his tally for the season to 10 goals with two curling efforts Picture: Barry Goodwin
Omari Hutchinson took his tally for the season to 10 goals with two curling efforts Picture: Barry Goodwin

“To come away from home and to get a point, to stay undefeated in this last little block, I think there are big positives to take from the night.”

Asked whether he felt he views the game as an opportunity missed or moving his side a point closer, McKenna said: “I think we’ll always take the positive perspective from it. That puts us to 90 points, we know the significance of that. I’m not sure anyone’s ever done that in the EFL, got 90 points two seasons in a row in two different divisions, it’s an incredible achievement.

“Of course, we know what we need from the last two games and hopefully tonight will prove to be a really, really big point.

“You can look at the game and say that we had the chances to get the fourth goal that probably have killed the game. On the other hand, we scored two great goals from outside the box. We’ll take the positives and we’ll move on to Tuesday night.”

Reflecting on the three his team conceded, he added: “We’re not delighted with the two goals we conceded in the second half, I think that’s clear. Considering the talent we were up against and the quality of players and the fact that they threw so many attackers on, considering all that, I didn’t think we gave away too many chances in the second half.

“The first goal in the first half, it can happen. I think anyone who has watched us, I don’t need to say, Vaz [Vaclav Hladky] playing into Samy [Morsy] and Samy taking the responsibility to get us through the pitch, I don’t know many points we’d be worse off if Samy hadn’t been doing that all year, but it’s an awful lot.

“That can happen and, of course, they’ll have our full support. I thought, actually, conceding the goal in the flow and the context of the whole game, didn’t do us any harm because we got straight back on the front foot and we got the goal back from that and I thought we gained a level of control that we kept for the large majority of the game after that.

“The two goals in the second half, we don’t defend the cross well enough, we don’t defend the set piece and keep it out of our net well enough, so that’s disappointing.

“But again, we’ve not been conceding many goals, we’ve been defending well. We’re disappointed with those tonight but at the same time, we’ve curled two into the net from outside the box.

“We could have kept a few more out but we’ve scored two great goals as well and created many, many, many more chances.

“We’ll never hide from things we could do better, but tonight’s certainly a night to take the positives.”

McKenna agreed that two-goal Omari Hutchinson is a special player: “He is. I think his mindset’s developed so much, it’s getting to the point that he’s got a pretty special mindset for a young player.

“He’s so hungry to improve. He wants to work on his game all the time, he’s taking on information so, so well and he’s come on leaps and bounds.

“You could see that tonight in his performance in two different positions, two different roles, really. Big tactical jobs to do in both positions, carried a big threat in both positions and produced two goals and, as he is, he’s in there, he’s disappointed he didn’t get his hat-trick.”

McKenna surprisingly handed George Hirst, who had been out since Boxing Day having undergone hamstring surgery, and Wes Burns, who had been out for a month with a more minor hamstring problem, starts, but he didn’t believe that was a gamble.

“We didn’t see it as a risk medically, to be honest,” he said. “I wouldn’t play a player no matter what stage of the season it was if I thought it was a medical risk.

“[George has] trained fully for the last two weeks, really. He played 45 minutes in a behind-closed-doors game last week.

“The biggest challenge was going to be getting the rhythm of a game of this level and I thought he did a really good job.

“Of course, he’s shown that he can produce big moments and big finishes in big games and he’s stepped up and done that again today, and Wes with the assist.

“The only challenge was going to be getting the speed of the game but we knew Hull would defend man-to-man against us on the top line and the running power, especially of those two boys, was always going to be important tonight, and I thought they did a really good job.

“The positive thing is that I thought they were getting stronger as the game went on and really we took them both off to make sure we weren’t going into a medical risk.

“They both give us a great option for the next two games and it’s great to have them both available.”

Asked how much of a boost it would be having matters in their own hands when Huddersfield visit Portman Road next Saturday having beaten Coventry, McKenna said: responded: “That’s the goal, for sure. We knew coming into today we needed five points.

“That’s certainly the objective, to try and get a result on Tuesday night, hopefully a win, but to get a positive result that keeps things under our control going into the last game.”

Quizzed on whether Hutchinson was among the players in his squad he considers ready for the Premier League, McKenna paused before answering.

“You can only say that we’re competing really, really well at the very top of the Championship and we’ve done that for 45 games now,” he said.

“Of course, we’re a team and it’s very much a team ethic and the players play well within the team, but you don’t get to that point without having some very, very good players in your team.

“We feel we certainly have that. Our focus, whether that’s players who are here or whether that’s the loan players, is just on the next game, we’re not thinking about anything ahead of Coventry, we’re certainly not thinking about the Premier League at the moment, we’re just thinking about trying to perform as well as we can and trying to win the game ahead of us.”

Reflecting on the team spirit his squad has shown, he said: “I think it’s very, very strong. I think it’s been evident not just this season, it was evident last season.

“We’ve got all the ingredients that you need for having a good spirit, we’ve got good characters, we’ve got good leaders, we’ve got a diverse group in terms of experiences and age, but they’ve come together really, really well and the supporters are right behind them.

“I don’t think this group is ever going to be caught short for spirit or the mental aspects of the game, it’s about trying push with everything we can to keep our performance levels high.”

Reflecting on a huge week ahead for the club, McKenna added: “Of course it is. Every game’s been a big game for I don’t know how long now and I think you can see the effort we’ve put into every game.

“Tuesday night won’t be any different, tonight wasn’t any different. I know the players will give their all. I think we’re playing well, I think we’re performing well, we’re doing a lot of good things as a team.

“I think you can see the team aren’t playing with a great deal of anxiety or anything like that. I think they’re enjoying the matches, enjoying the stage of the season and where we’re at.

“Of course, the games are hard and they’re tight because of the level we’re operating at and the step up we’ve made, but we’re enjoying it.

“What a wonderful position to be in, what a great game to look forward to on Tuesday night.

“We know, whatever happens now, we’re going to go back to Portman Road on Saturday morning in contention for automatic promotion to the Premier League. What a wonderful thing to be involved in.

“We’ll embrace that but most importantly, we’ll recover and prepare to try and deliver a performance on Tuesday.”

Davis injury update

Meanwhile, McKenna says left-back Leif Davis was limping heavily following the 3-3 draw.

The 24-year-old was substituted in the 82nd minute with an ankle problem, Harry Clarke taking over for the final few minutes.

“He’s limping pretty heavily,” McKenna said afterwards. “He rolled his ankle, it’s an issue he’s had before, so we’ll have to assess him over the next few days.”