Walton on clean sheets, fortress Portman Road and the McKenna effect
- Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town keeper Christian Walton says there's a wave of confidence and positivity around the club as Kieran McKenna's Blues mount a late push for the play-off places.
McKenna's men have won seven of his first ten games in charge, catapulting them up League One and into the top six mix. They're now just four points off the play-off spots ahead of tonight's visit of Cheltenham (7.45pm ko).
And big stopper Walton, one of Town's best players this season, said that everyone connected to the club can feel something special building.
"That's always what the club have wanted," he said. "It's a massive club. I obviously played against Ipswich in previous seasons with my loan club, and I never actually realised how big it was until I signed on loan here. When I signed permanently that was one of the big factors.
"The confidence around the place now is really good - when you've got a massive following and everyone's confident, everything's going well on the pitch, it's a great place to be as a player and member of staff at the club."
One of the building blocks for the Blues' turnaround under McKenna has been clean sheets - Town haven't conceded a goal yet this month, a run of four straight games. Indeed, Town have stopped their foes from scoring seven times in McKenna's reign so far.
And Walton pointed to consistency in defensive selection as the key to the new-found solidity at the back - a defence which will be tested tonight by a team who scored five goals at play-off hopefuls Wycombe on Saturday.
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He said: "The consistency is a big thing, seeing the same faces in front of me definitely helps and you get a clear understanding of each other, and you know each other's games - it obviously just gets better game by game, so it's been nice to have that consistency.
"It's been good to get those relationships built up over a period of time, and it's obviously showing now and we're getting the results for it."
Of the Cheltenham clash, he continued: "I think you can look at it both ways. They might be tired from the effort that they had to put in to score five goals against one of the top teams in the division, but in the same breath they're going to be full of confidence because they've just scored five goals.
"Let's hope it's not that type of game tomorrow night - and we score five goals!
"They're going to be full of confidence, their striker (Alfie May) scored four goals so we'll do our pre-match meetings, we'll be fully prepared for what's coming and we'll know how to deal with it, and then it's down to us to implement our style on the game and put on a good performance."
Town will also be protecting an impressive home record tonight - the Blues haven't tasted defeat at home in the league since November, when league leaders Rotherham United escaped Suffolk with a 2-0 win.
"We're really proud of the home record," Walton said. "Obviously the performances have been really good and I think that's down to everyone training so hard and working so hard on and off the pitch and wanting to improve as players and as a team.
"I'm really proud to see that, and I'm the same - I want to improve as an Ipswich Town player and help the team get as high up the division as possible.
"Who knows come the 30th of April where we'll be, but if we're doing everything right then there will be no excuses at the end of the season - it'll just be a case of whether we've fallen short or not, but we'll all be working hard in the coming weeks and see where that takes us."
Like all of his team-mates, the stopper also praised his new boss for the impact he's had on the club.
"It's been massive, a breath of fresh air really," Walton explained. "A new young manager with new ideas, worked at the highest level, the calibre of players he's worked with...
"For us as players we need to buy into everything he's offering and have a growth mindset towards everything.
"When you've got a coach like that you need to take as much as you possibly can from them to improve as player - improving as a player is only going to help the team.
"I've really enjoyed working with him and all the new staff - Rene Gilmartin, the goalie coach, has been really good.
"We're on a good page at the moment and it's up to us to continue that until the end of the season."