'Close isn't good enough' - McKenna on 1-0 loss at Sheffield Wednesday

Ipswich Manager Kieran McKenna at Hillsborough.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna has explained the club's approach in the January transfer window. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna admits today's 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday is a set-back to his team's push for a play-off place.

Marvin Johnson's sixth minute goal was the difference in a game which the Blues had 65% possession but zero shots on target. 

The Owls leapfrog Town in the table, with McKenna's men back to being eight points adrift of sixth-placed and 11 behind fifth having played at least one game more than the three teams immediately above them. 

"It's a set-back, for sure, in terms of results," said the Blues boss, whose record since taking over now reads W4 L2.

"We said from the start we're a long way off (the top-six) so we're not going to obsess over the results, we're going to be obsessed with performances and getting better.

"We've picked up some good results. There were bits of the performance today that was pleasing but it wasn't enough to get a result. It's a set-back in that way. We're disappointed not to create as many chances as we'd want and we've conceded a goal that we're not happy with, because something we've been doing well is defending crosses and the back post. 

"Yeah, it's a set-back in a lot of aspects, but we move on. It's the same as when we've won games - we move on to the next one. We'll work with the players. I think you can see clearly things on the pitch that are improving and getting better. The style of play is improving.

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"We were close today, I thought, to a good performance, but close isn't good enough. We didn't manage to do that extra bit to turn it into a result and we're disappointed with that."'

Reflecting further on the game, Mckenna said: "Obviously we're disappointed with the result. We came here wanting to win and we didn't. I thought there were some positive aspects to the performance. We wanted to take the ball, impose our football on the game and I thought we did that for large chunks of the game.

"I thought we started the first seven or eight minutes, whatever it was, really well. We barely allowed them a kick and then obviously the first time they got near out box it was a really good cross and they scored.

"I think that changed the complexion of the game. I think the first half performance, probably at nil-nil, we probably would have been really happy with the way that we were controlling the game, but at 1-0 down it puts a different shine on everything. They were able to enjoy the defending a bit more, they were able to be more compact and feel like they were in charge of the game because they had the goal behind them. Obviously they were a threat then on the counter-attack throughout the game.

"We poked and probed and we tried to get into the areas we were wanting to get to, but we didn't manage to create enough clear-cut chances. In the end they had the better chances over the course of the game. We controlled bits of it, but we can't have too many complaints."

He continued: "Look, the pitch was a challenge for how we want to play. It took an extra touch or two to settle the ball down, so it wasn't easy to get our one-touch moves going. But we have to find other ways to create and score.

"Again, I think a big part of it was the fact we gave them an early goal. That enabled them to really defend their goalmouth and the edge of the box with a lot of numbers and feel like they were in charge of the game. At nil-nil the complexion of the game would have been different, spaces would have opened up more, we would have been able to pull them out more and get more penetration. But I think giving them the early goal is probably the key bit of it. It's something we need to look at."

George Edmundson was tackled high up the field in the build-up to the goal, with Wes Burns then not getting back to prevent Johnson finishing on the opposite side of the pitch.

"Losing the ball in our half of the pitch can happen with the way we want to play," said McKenna. "We want to play brave. We've done it very well at times in this game and over the last games.

"But we need to be better on the goal after that. I haven't seen it back, but definitely we can do more in terms of our reaction to stop the cross and also with the recovery run to defend the back post.

"Part of our game model is we will build from the back, we will be brave in those areas. Sometimes you lose the ball but that doesn't equal conceding goals if your reaction and your recoveries are good enough. On this occasion they weren't and we got punished."

Town went into this game with captain Sam Morsy suspended and Lee Evans still sidelined with a groin injury. Tom Carroll also became unavailable after his partner gave birth yesterday. That meant that Idris El Mizouni came into the team to partner Tyreeq Bakinson in central midfield.

"He's impressed me since I've come in to be fair," said McKenna of El Mizouni. "He's a player who hasn't played lots this year, but he's had some good exposure. We had spoken about him going on loan possibly to gain more minutes but obviously the circumstances have been different this week with Lee missing and obviously Tom today as well. 

"I thought Idris can be proud of his performance. He came into the team, showed good energy, good personality and performed well. Unfortunately it wasn't part of a winning performance. Individually he can be happy with his work though."

He added: "Tom's had a baby son yesterday, so he was down in London. That's obviously good news for him. He'll be back with us shortly. 

"Lee wasn't quite able to make this one. We don't think it's going to be too long. It was disappointing not to have him today but hopefully he'll be in and around the Gillingham game (at home next weekend)."

Asked what he made of Dominic Thompson's debut display on the left, McKenna said of the Brentford loanee: "I was pleased with him. I thought he done what we brought him here for. He's tenacious, he gets up to people in a really aggressive manner, tries to win the ball back, he looks to break forward, gets into attacking areas... I thought he could have had a goal on another day. He ended up in the box a few times in the first half.

"At times we were just a bounce of a ball or half a yard away from it falling to us and having really good chances.

"He can be pleased with his start. I'm sure he'll improve as well the more he gets used to the players and they get used to him. I'm happy to have him here. He's a good addition to the squad."

With the transfer window shutting at 11pm on Monday, McKenna added: "Obviously my focus has been on the game over the last 24/48 hours. I know the club are working very hard behind the scenes to see if there is something that will improve us. I'll speak to the club now and find out where we are at with one or two things. We'll see if anyone comes in before Monday."