Fuller Flavour: McKenna is laying the foundations for a play-off push

Kieran McKenna applauds his players at Gillingham.

Kieran McKenna applauds his players at Gillingham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town fan Karl Fuller offers his thoughts on the start of Kieran McKenna's reign as Blues' boss...

How good was that on Saturday? The first three goals were sublime and were no doubt watched collectively several thousand times throughout social media and beyond.

True, Gillingham were poor, but you can only beat what is in front of you. We have played some other poor teams this season and were not as dominant as we were on this occasion.

The tempo, the pressing, the passing and the will to work hard both with the ball and without it, made for impressive viewing. Those hardy souls that stood in the rain would not have cared one iota for getting wet with what they saw in front of them.

Kieran McKenna on the touchline at Gillingham.

Kieran McKenna on the touchline at Gillingham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

For the third time this season, we have scored four goals in a game away from home. That’s the first time this has happened since the 1988/89 season.

That was John Duncan’s second season in charge. Who can remember those games when Town won 5-1 at Shrewsbury Town with Simon Milton netting a hat-trick? The 4-2 win at Walsall with new-signing Sergei Baltacha watching in the stands?

Or the 4-2 win at Leeds United with Dalian Atkinson on target, along with Milton again and a brace of goals from John Wark? That is how long we have had to wait for Town to be so rampant on the road in one season.

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I came across an old ‘Those Were The Days’ fanzine last week and I had completed an end of season survey within. The final question asked to describe the 2001/2002 season in one word. I chose inconsistent. And that is exactly what Town were for the first-half of this season.

But Kieran McKenna has come in and overseen two wins in his first two games in charge. He is only the second manager after Roy Keane to do so.

Luck of the Irish maybe? There is of course a Manchester United theme connecting both – probably just a coincidence. But just as I praised the performance against Wycombe, this was equally as notable.

McKenna was quite right not to single players out. How could you? The back three collectively make us more solid and individually, can all press forward and get attacks going.

Sam Morsy and Lee Evans have been excellent in the last two games. Wes Burns showed just how much we missed him when he was injured and Sone Aluko has been the player I knew he would be when he signed. His pass through to Matt Penney to square for Macauley Bonne to score was exquisite.

Sone Aluko takes on a defender at Gillingham.

Sone Aluko takes on a defender at Gillingham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

James Norwood and Bonne are a handful for any defence. Yes, I am buzzing and contented at the start to McKenna’s time with the club.

Some would say to err on the side of caution and not get carried away. My viewpoint is that if you cannot enjoy these moments, waiting instead for a long unbeaten run to get your juices flowing, then you might as well give up. We are not Manchester City, enjoy these moments for what they are worth.

And it is great that just for once, we benefit from a new manager bounce. Time and time again, we have been the opposition for a clubs’ new manager to enjoy a first game victory against.

But as impressive the two results and performances have been thus far, how well McKenna conducts himself is equally stirring. His post-match interviews are very likeable.

There are no clichés that were all too common with previous managers. He was quick to recognise how good the quality of our performance was.

But whilst lauding the positives, he also recognised areas to improve. And improve those areas I believe he will. It is very easy to forget that the guy is just 35-years-old. He speaks as if he has managed for years.

Look, we know it will not always be plain-sailing. There will be the odd defeat ahead. But I like what I have seen so far.

The wish list must now be to see Christian Walton and Macauley Bonne signed permanently, and tying Aluko and Norwood down on new contracts.

Reaching the play-offs remain a tall order. But McKenna is certainly laying the foundations to give it a good go. Can he become the first-ever Ipswich manager to win his first three games?

We'll find out on Saturday.

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