North Stander: Now we can win ugly, and that's so important

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna celebrates.

Kieran McKenna enjoys the win over Accrington. Ipswich Town have won three of his first four games in charge - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town fan and journalist Terry Hunt shares his latest thoughts on the Blues after their 2-1 win over Accrington Stanley...

It looks like Kieran McKenna is installing the vital missing ingredient into his Ipswich Town team. I’m talking about the ability to win ugly games.

So often this season we’ve played good stuff, gone ahead, but let the opposition back into the game to steal a point, or even three. It’s been hugely frustrating.

Under Paul Cook, we would have lost against Accrington. We would have succumbed to their suffocating, cynical tactics to kill the game. We’ve seen it all before.

Ipswich Town keeper Christian Walton makes a fingertip first half save.

Ipswich Town keeper Christian Walton makes a fingertip first half save. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

But on Saturday, despite going behind, we stood up to them, mixed some quality moments with the necessary ugly side of the game, and ultimately grabbed three very important points.

If we want to get out of this awful division, that’s the way it will have to be. Just playing nice football isn’t enough. It has to be a combination of good football and being able to slug it out.

We will always be able to deliver quality, some moments of beauty. With players like Bersant Celina, Wes Burns and Conor Chaplin in the team, we have the ability to dazzle.

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Look at the goals against Accrington. For the first, a stunning through ball from Celina and a cool, clever finish from Burns. Then a great strike from Chaplin for the second. League One teams can’t live with that quality.

Of course we need those delicious moments, but it has to be in the context of managing games effectively. It won’t always be easy on the eye, I’m afraid, but it’s the only way we’re going to escape...

I was very interested to see McKenna talking about the work they have been doing on the mental side of the game. Excellent. It’s clearly where we have been what Mick McCarthy would have described as “milky.”

McKenna continues to impress. Not just because of the results, although three wins in his first four games is a pretty good start.

It’s much more than that. He is clearly a smart operator, who has come in and very quickly and clearly assessed what’s good, and what needs sorting. Our psychological frailty is obviously very near the top of the list of priorities.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

It’s interesting to see how he’s getting performances from players who had previously been pretty much written off. Look at the resurgence of Luke Woolfenden, the goalscoring return of James Norwood, and the enterprising decision to play Kane Vincent-Young at left wing-back.

McKenna is really impressive in his media interviews. I know it’s simpler when results are going well, but his comments are so balanced, so thoughtful and such a refreshing contrast to the nonsense some other managers seem to spout.

He’s very much the modern face of football management, and if he does well here - which I’m sure he will - it could be the start of a long and very successful career. We have a track record of giving bright young bosses their first break, and a couple have done pretty well!

All in all, it’s been a really good few days for our club. The permanent signing of Christian Walton was a brilliant piece of news.

He is such a good keeper, and his presence will be worth several points throughout a season. Just look at the save on Saturday when we were one down. If that goes in, it’s game over. It was a huge turning point. He’s definitely our best keeper since Bart, and in time could prove to be even better.

The signing of Walton also had a much wider, hugely positive significance. It simply wouldn’t have happened during the desperately dull, depressing Marcus Evans era. Not a chance.

But the fact that our new owners have obviously dug deep to get the deal over the line speaks volumes for their ambition. So encouraging. These guys really are game changers.

So, what about the here and now? The league table is certainly beginning to look more encouraging. Eight points separate us from a play-off place. It’s difficult, but not impossible.

Referee Geoff Eltringham reached for his yellow card as George Edmundson waves his finger at the off

Referee Geoff Eltringham reached for his yellow card as George Edmundson waves his finger at the official in frustration. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

It will take a winning run the like of which has been beyond us, but that’s definitely not out of the question if we can consistently manage games as well as provide some magic moments.

The first tests will come at Wimbledon on Tuesday evening and then away at Sheffield Wednesday next Saturday. Yes, both are tough, but both are also winnable. Four points would be acceptable.