McKenna expecting 'different challenge' as he takes Town to Bolton

Kieran McKenna's Ipswich Town on Bolton this weekend

Kieran McKenna's Ipswich Town on Bolton this weekend - Credit: Steve Waller

Kieran McKenna is expecting a ‘completely different challenge’ when he takes his Ipswich Town side to Bolton this weekend. 

The former Manchester United coach has made a perfect start to life at Portman Road, winning his first two games against Wycombe and Gillingham sides who take a similarly physical approach to games. 

But, as he prepares his team to face a Wanderers side who have lost their last five matches, McKenna knows he and his players will need to adapt to a Bolton XI who approach the game differently. 

“This week’s a different challenge,” McKenna said. “Bolton are a different style of team to Gillingham and to Wycombe, so we know they will give us different types of problems. 

Bolton Wanderers celebrate early in the second half after Josh Sheehan (8) had scored to give them a

Bolton were 5-2 winners at Portman Road in September - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

“They will probably look to build up from the back quite well and they have pace up front and midfielders who can get on the ball and dictate possession. They have some good movement and some good patterns. 

“It will be a different challenge in terms of style, so we need to do our fundamentals well and defend well as a team. 

“If we do that we have a good chance to win the game. 

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“It’s been a really good foundation to our last two performances, how we’ve been without the ball. 

“That’s not just the defenders, it starts from the front where we put pressure on other teams and make it difficult for them to have any time on the ball, get their head up and play passes where they want to play them. 

“That’s given us a chance to squeeze the line and keep the ball away from our goal a little bit more, especially last weekend. 

“The players have bought into that very well.” 

Wanderers’ good start to the season has fallen away of late, with Ian Evatt’s men losing their last five games and sliding down the table. 

McKenna, looking beyond their poor form, can see plenty of reasons why his side will need to be on their toes this weekend, having watched Wanderers’ midweek 2-0 home loss to Wycombe.  

Bolton Wanderers team manager Ian Evatt looks on.

Ian Evatt's team have lost their last five matches - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

“I thought they played well and I don’t think they’re a million miles away, in all the games I’ve seen,” the Town boss said. 

“In the Wycombe game they had more possession, more crosses and more shots. They had more corners and probably the better chances, if not equal, against a really strong Wycombe team. Wycombe made the difference in the penalty boxes. 

“They are in a spell where they haven’t had good results so will want improve that. Ian (Evatt) will be working hard with the group. 

“It’s clear for us to see where the challenges lie. The form guide shows us winning the last couple and them not winning (losing their last five) but that doesn’t necessarily have a massive bearing on this game. 

“It’s up to us, so if we can start well, get the first goal and play in a really aggressive, dominant, manner then that is possibly when form can come into it and we’ll maybe have that little bit more confidence. 

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna

Kieran McKenna has won his first two games as Ipswich Town boss - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

“But starting the game, this isn’t a team playing poorly so we need to come out of the traps.” 

McKenna continued: “Yes, we’ve won two games but we haven’t won enough games all season, so this isn’t the time to give ourselves a pat on the back.  

“It’s time to knuckle down and we’ve probably worked even harder in training than we have in the weeks before.  

“We have a pretty grounded group and it’s about blocking out any noise on the outside and realising we have jobs to do now. It’s going to be a really tough game and we can’t take anything for granted.” 

Town and Bolton have met already this season, with the visitors running out 5-2 winners on a disastrous afternoon at Portman Road for Paul Cook’s side. 

“The staff haven’t talked about it loads and it’s not something I’ve planned to go into too much with the players, though obviously I’ve watched the game back and understand some of the difficulties there were in the game,” McKenna said, discussing September’s game. 

Lee Evans with a second half free kick.

Lee Evans whips in a free-kick against Bolton in September - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

“But it’s not something we’ve used as a big motivation or tactical tool because I want us to focus on the here and now. I feel we’re in a very good place as a group and both teams are in different places in their season. 

“It won’t be something we focus a lot of our preparation on but I’m sure there are players who individually may feel they have to prove a point against a direct opponent.” 

This weekend’s trip will also open McKenna’s eyes to one of the more frustrating sides to managing Ipswich Town... 

“The long drive is a pleasure from working out of Ipswich,” McKenna joked. 

“It’s not something we’ve (McKenna and assistant Martyn Pert) been so used to but the players are well used to it. 

“We have a good sports science team, a good nutrition team and a really good chef who travels with us, so we’ll do everything right to make sure we make the very best of the journey.  

“It is a challenge, of course, but we’ll be as well-prepared as we can possibly be.” 

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