'Potentially a powerful football club' - McKenna on Plymouth win

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna punches the air in celebration after his side had secured a 1-0

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna punches the air in celebration after his side had secured a 1-0 victory over Plymouth. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna says the only criticism of his team is that they didn't score more in this afternoon's 1-0 home win against high-flying Plymouth Argyle.

The fourth-place Pilgrims arrived at Portman Road on an impressive six-game win streak, having not conceded in more than nine hours of football, but left comfortably beaten by a Town side now unbeaten in 11.

Sam Morsy finished off a slick 37th minute move and that proved to be enough against the depleted visitors, who didn't produce a single shot on target.  

"It was a very good performance, especially first half," said McKenna, whose side remain ninth in the League One table, the gap to the play-off places cut to five points with six games to go.

"I liked all aspects of our game really apart from, again, and maybe I'm being greedy, us not being more than 1-0 up.

"Our intensity and pressing was really good, we won balls high up the pitch, we were really well connected and aggressive off the ball. On the ball we got joy in the areas that we wanted to overload and hurt them in. That came to fruition with the goal, we got into good areas time and again and it probably could have been more than one goal at half-time.

"Second half was a little bit different. I didn't think we started the second half great. I thought we started off a little bit passive in terms of almost trying to see the game out a little bit too early. Probably after 15/20 minutes of that second half we started to connect our passes again, we started to play with the ball and from then we controlled it well, didn't look under any danger and, again, I can only criticise us for not getting that second goal."

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna gives instructions to skipper Sam Morsy during a break in play.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna gives instructions to skipper Sam Morsy during a break in play. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

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On captain Morsy, who arrived between two defenders to finish off James Norwood's low cut-back on the edge of the six-yard box, McKenna said: "It was something that I saw in his game, his ability to drive forwards with and without the ball. I spoke to him about it and it was something he was keen to take on. He's capable of playing different roles for us in different games.

"Today we wanted to get Bersant (Celina) playing almost at the tip of a diamond with Sam running off in that left channel a lot. He enjoys that role a lot and he's getting better at his timing into the box. Obviously it was a really good spin by James as well, a good cut-back and a good goal."

Town have now kept 12 clean sheets in 17 matches under McKenna. This was their sixth successive shut-out on home soil.

"We just focus on getting better in all aspects," said the Blues boss. "The better we are with the ball, the more we control the game in their half of the pitch and that means they have less chance to score.

"In most of this game, especially in the first half, there was very little action and territory for them in our final third. That gives you a good chance of getting clean sheets. 

Sam Morsy fires Town into a 1-0 lead.

Sam Morsy fires Town into a 1-0 lead. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

"I feel like some of our penetration and our patterns and our movements are getting better week-by-week. We're getting better at getting people into good goalscoring positions - we just need to keep working on our execution."

With Town having conceded a 95th minute equaliser at Oxford the previous weekend, McKenna was asked how he felt when Plymouth keeper Michael Cooper twice came up to attack set-pieces towards the end.

"It was a funny one," he replied. "In a way it was pleasing because we spoke about it quite a lot in the week. When you have an experience as sickening as that, sometimes the best thing to have is for it to come up again very quickly so that you can try and learn, improve and get a different outcome.

"I didn't feel nervous, but I didn't feel nervous last week! I guess one of the big points from last week was that you can't take clean sheets for granted. Every little moment in the game has an impact. There are a few little things that we let slip in the late stages last week and we didn't let it slip this week. We were really focussed in on the details. If you do that then it's very, very unlikely, or more unlikely, that they are going to score.

"I didn't feel like we were under any big threat. We took care of the details and saw the game out well."

Paul Mariner banners on display in the stands ahead of the game.

Paul Mariner banners on display in the stands ahead of the game. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

With this Town's first win of the season against a team currently in the top seven on the table, McKenna said: "It's only three points. It's no different to the three points that are on offer against Cambridge (next weekend).

"However, I do think it's an important step in our development as a team to consistently beat the teams around or above us. Obviously we had Wycombe, when I first arrived, when they were third in the league I think. But probably since then we haven't managed to get the three points against the teams above us in the league despite some good performances.

"So I think, not just for this season and for the points we are chasing, but also for the development of the team and the confidence in how we're working it was important to get the win today."

Sheffield Wednesday's 4-1 win against Cheltenham means Ipswich have only moved one point closer to the play-off places. McKenna's men have six games to go with the four teams immediately above them all having a game in hand to come.

"It's just the way it is - we can't affect that," said McKenna. "The runs of the teams around us has been incredible really. Since Christmas there have been a couple of teams we've caught up ground on, but there are also teams who have put together incredible runs of form. We can't control that unless we play against them. Today was obviously one of those days where we could impact it and end a run. Oxford and Portsmouth were on long winning runs before we played them as well and we feel like we could have won both of those games as well. 

"All we can do is control ourselves and take each game as it comes. We'll do that again for Cambridge (at home) next weekend."

With a crowd of 23,256 celebrating the life of club legend Paul Mariner in the sunshine, McKenna said: "The atmosphere was great. It felt like one of those days were everyone - staff, players, fans - were all pulling in the same direction. If we can keep going then this is potentially a really powerful football club."