'It's clear where we need to improve' - McKenna on 1-0 loss at Rotherham

Kieran McKenna is interviewed before the televised game at Rotherham

Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna speaks to Sky after his side's 1-0 defeat at Rotherham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna says he has 'real clarity' about where his team needs to improve, following this afternoon's 1-0 loss at Rotherham.

James Norwood missed a golden early chance for the Blues before the previously nervy Millers got on top after the break. It was no surprise when Michael Smith rifled in the 78th minute winner after the Blues had failed to deal with a long throw into their box.

"The first half was probably a fairer reflection of where we've been lately," said a clearly frustrated McKenna.

"It was a good performance against a very difficult team. I thought we stood up to the physical threat well, we posed them all sorts of problems when we played through the pitch, they struggled to deal with the overloads, we had runners on the last line, we had the clearest chance in the whole game and a couple of other opportunities that we really should capitalise on. So I think they were probably glad to get to half-time at 0-0.

"Obviously second half was a completely different game. They managed to impose themselves in the first few minutes physically and just turned into a game of set-plays. I don't think the ball was hardly in play the whole half. It just became a barrage of corners and throw-ins that we weren't able to stand up to for the whole half.

"We weren't able to get the ball in play enough and secure enough possession to keep them away from our goal. That made things difficult against a Rotherham team who are very, very good at that phase of the game."

Michael Smith scores the winner during the second half at Rotherham

Michael Smith scores the winner during the second half at Rotherham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Having won only one of their last six, Town are 10th in the League One table and mathematically unable to finish inside the play-off places with three games to go.

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"Over the last week or two we've known it was probably going to be beyond us for the play-offs this year," said McKenna. "It was always going to be a very tall ask from the start of the season we had and the runs that other teams have had. I don't think today changes that. I think it's points we dropped earlier in the season that dictates that.

"For us it's about building now. I think it's really clear for me to see, and probably for everyone else to see, the areas of the game that we're very good at and also the things that we need to improve in the summer, both with recruitment and coaching. We look forward to that process now. We go into the summer with a real clarity about what we need to do to improve the team and the squad.

"Hopefully we'll be in a very different position in 12 months time."

With 19-year-old academy graduate Elkan Baggott making his league debut, in place of the suspended Cameron Burgess in defence, McKenna said: "It wasn't an easy decision, because you're putting in a player who hasn't played in a proper competitive game. But it's very important to us that we show the young players here that there's a pathway and opportunity if you train well and buy into everything that we're doing. That was the case with Elkan.

"I think he can be pleased with his performance. It sets him off well and hopefully he can build on this experience."

James Norwood after miss-hitting a golden early chance at Rotherham

James Norwood after miss-hitting a golden early chance at Rotherham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Asked if there's anything Ipswich can learn from Rotherham, who have now beaten Ipswich in four successive League One meetings, McKenna said: "There was no surprises from Rotherham today. They do what they do well and they've done it over a number of years. We knew exactly what to expect. I thought we stood up to it pretty well in the first half. One of the bits we need to do better is when we do impose ourselves on the game we need better execution and be better in those moments to score.

"In the second half, when they put that physical challenge to us with the set plays and the man-to-man press all over the pitch, they left one-v-ones in 60 yards of space. We need to have more weapons to hurt them in that phase and more solidity about us to defend that barrage when it comes.

"They are a very good, very successful team, they play how they play and they do it very well. We just need to get better and develop how we want to play."

He added: "There's a disappointed feeling today because of how the second half went, but we can't afford to stew on that for too long because we've got a very similar type of game against Wigan on Tuesday night at home."