Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna believes that George Hirst ‘feels the appreciation’ from everyone associated with the club.

The striker found the back of the net in Saturday’s 2-1 win at home to Coventry City, picking up Nathan Broadhead’s through ball before shrugging off Liam Kitching and firing past Bradley Collins to give his side an early lead at Portman Road.

It takes his total up to five goals in 18 league games, although he’s openly voiced his frustration that he hasn’t been able to improve that tally.

His output makes him the third-top scorer in the first-team squad, only trailing Broadhead Conor Chaplin, who have seven goals each.

On top of that, Hirst has registered five assists, receiving significant praise for his work rate both on and off the ball.

His unselfish nature and physical presence up front has seen him become McKenna’s first-choice striker, having re-joined the Blues on a permanent deal over the summer after an impressive spell in League One on loan from former Premier League side Leicester City.

East Anglian Daily Times: George Hirst scored the opening goal in Saturday's win against Coventry CityGeorge Hirst scored the opening goal in Saturday's win against Coventry City (Image: Stephen Waller)

Although Coventry City’s Haji Wright (10) is the only Championship player to miss more chances than him (9) so far this season, it hasn’t taken away from his overall performance levels, which have been much higher than in previous years.

Hirst struggled to find his feet in the second tier until moving to Suffolk. He was given just a handful of minutes off the bench on loan at Rotherham United in 2020/21 before enduring an equally difficult spell at Blackburn Rovers a couple of years later.

He finally seems to have found somewhere that feels like home, which hasn’t happened since leaving boyhood club Sheffield Wednesday in 2018.

McKenna believes that it’s down to the support Hirst has received, claiming that he no longer needs to be reminded that his performances won’t be judged on goals alone.

“I don’t even need to tell him anymore,” the manager admitted.

“He knows it. He feels the appreciation from the staff, he feels the appreciation from his teammates and he feels the appreciation from the supporters.

“You can feel it in the stadium. Almost 30,000 Ipswich fans know exactly what they’re getting from him at the moment.

East Anglian Daily Times: Hirst admitted that he's been frustrated by his goal talley so far this seasonHirst admitted that he's been frustrated by his goal talley so far this season (Image: Stephen Waller)

“He’s feeling the appreciation at the moment from everyone. Of course, he would’ve liked to have scored more goals. He’s had a couple of chances that, in another season, might’ve gone in.

“I think he could’ve had a couple more penalties for sure, and he’s had some good saves against him, but that’s one part of the job.

“The role he does leading the line for us is a unique balance, really. There’s not many strikers who are 6’3 but can also stretch the game and run behind like he can.

“He’s really worked hard to improve his build-up, back to play, holding off defenders and dropping to connect with the midfield.

“He’s got an important role in set plays and he’s got an important role in this team. He’s really developed as a player.

“I don’t need to speak to him all the time on that. He knows we appreciate him, he knows his teammates appreciate him, and he knows the supporters appreciate him as well.”