North Stander: Why our flat finish could be a blessing in disguise

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna applauds the fans after the Sky Bet League One match at the AESS

Kieran McKenna has a big job on his hands to turn Ipswich Town into a contender this summer - Credit: PA

I don’t think Kieran McKenna will be spending much time on a sun lounger this summer. He knows he has plenty of work to do if Ipswich Town are going to mount a realistic promotion challenge next season.

A third mid-table finish in League One is a massive underachievement, given the investment which the new owners have brought to the club.
We know – and McKenna is well aware – the squad has some fundamental weaknesses.

I think the flat as a pancake finish to the season will be a blessing in disguise. If we’d stormed to the finish line, just missing out on the play-offs, maybe everyone would have been fooled.

It could have papered over the cracks, and left us expecting the team to win the title by a country mile. Now, where have I heard that before...?

Instead, the limp run-in has well and truly exposed the frailties which McKenna needs to sort out before it all begins again.

The weaknesses are well documented but, for the avoidance of doubt, here they are...

Firstly, we don’t score enough goals. It’s extraordinary that Macauley Bonne remains our leading scorer when you consider his long-running goal drought. None of our strikers are scoring, and we’re having to rely on the likes of Conor Chaplin for our meagre goal return.

Time to start: Ipswich Manager Kieran McKenna at Crewe Alexandra.

Ipswich manager Kieran McKenna at Crewe Alexandra. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Our lack of goals from set-pieces is just embarrassing now. Instead of getting excited when we have a corner, I now worry about the opposition scoring on the break. Our supporters have even started chanting sarcastically about our appalling record from corners and set-pieces.

In midfield, we have to establish an effective partner for Sam Morsy. Is it Tyreeq Bakinson? The jury is out. Sometimes he looks great, other times he just seems clumsy.

Is it Lee Evans? Since he’s been out injured, some fans have turned him into the best midfield player in the world. They seem to forget that, at times, he’s been very underwhelming. He still has much to prove.

Ipswich players celebrate Conor ChaplinÕs goal at Crewe Alexandra.

Ipswich players celebrate Conor ChaplinÕs goal at Crewe Alexandra. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

As we all know, the team is very lopsided. Very threatening down the right, through Wes Burns and Janoi Donacien, but pretty much impotent on the left-hand side. If we’re going to stick with the wing-back system, I’m afraid Dominic Thompson isn’t the answer.

The biggest weakness of all, and it’s certainly nothing new, is our lack of a killer instinct. We’ve dropped an incredible number of points from winning positions, and we seem to specialise in conceding very late goals.

I know that happens to all teams on occasions, especially those who can’t score more than one goal per game, but it’s become an absolute epidemic for us.

Why does it keep happening? For me, it’s psychological. The players lack the mental ability to put games to bed. They take their foot off the pedal, and allow opponents back into games.

It has to stop. McKenna described the goal we conceded at Crewe as unacceptable. The whole trend is unacceptable, quite frankly, and it will be a challenge for our manager to resolve.

For me, it means bringing in some new players with a different, stronger mentality. Two or three arrivals in that mould will make the world of difference.

Of course, there are strengths to build on. In Christian Walton, we undoubtedly have a keeper who belongs at a higher level. He has been absolutely brilliant. The same goes for the players in front of him, Donacien and George Edmundson. Cameron Burgess is a decent back-up.

Christian Walton at Crewe Alexandra.

Christian Walton at Crewe Alexandra. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Sam Morsy is a dynamic, powerful player and leader. McKenna will want to build his team around the skipper. Wes Burns is exciting, both as a goalscorer and provider.

So, basically we have half a team who are nailed on starters. The rest are question marks, at the best. I’m sure we won’t see Demolition Man 2, but I expect to see quite a few changes. McKenna has made his frustrations pretty clear in recent weeks.

One thing is certain -the team will be playing in front of very large home crowds, probably in the mid-20,000s. That is quite extraordinary support for a team which has languished In the middle of the third divisions for three underwhelming campaigns.

Let’s hope the loyal Blue and White Army have much, much more to cheer next season.