'I've not been surprised' - Woolfenden on Town's turnaround under McKenna

Luke Woolfenden on the ball against Gillingham.

Luke Woolfenden says Ipswich Town are expecting to keep clean sheets now - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town defender Luke Woolfenden says the Blues are going into every game expecting to keep a clean sheet - and just need to get their confidence back at the other end of the pitch to charge into the play-offs.

After not seeing consistent action from the start of the season, Woolfenden has been part of a staunch back four unit which has kept eight teams scoreless in the 11 games since new boss Kieran McKenna took charge. 

Tuesday night's 0-0 draw with Cheltenham, while underwhelming given Town's dominance, saw the team equal a club record of five straight clean sheets.

Luke Woolfenden deals with a dangerous ball.

Luke Woolfenden has been in great form for Town in recent weeks - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

It's night and day from earlier in the campaign, when Town were scoring for fun, but as leaky as a broken tap at the back.

"The season's flipped on its head," said the 23-year-old. "At the start of the season we couldn't keep a clean sheet but we were scoring for fun, and now it's probably gone the opposite way a bit.

"We're still creating a lot of chances, just not putting them away. But we're defending a lot better now as a whole team.

"If we can get the balance to that then we'll be fine come the end of the season."

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Asked how to find that balance, he replied: "It's just about having that confidence about yourself, the belief that when you get into the box, you're going to score.

"Having that full confidence in your ability so that you know that if it's a cross, you're putting it in right on the money , a header - even from the set-pieces, having the belief that you're going to take the ball and score.

"It just comes down to belief and confidence really."

Luke Woolfenden flicks on a Conor Chaplin corner towards goal.

Luke Woolfenden flicks on a Conor Chaplin corner towards goal. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Confidence is certainly not lacking at the back though, with Woolfenden, Janoi Donacien, George Edmundson and Christian Walton forming a Blue wall in recent games.

"I think it can be compared to a striker on a good run of form," Woolfenden said. "When you're playing and you've kept a lot of clean sheets in a row it almost comes naturally to you.

"You're covering round, being aggressive and on the front foot.

"When you're shipping a lot of goals it can play on your mind.

"But at the minute it's a confidence and belief thing now that we're going into games thinking worst case scenario, if we score one goal, we'll keep a clean sheet."

Luke Woolfenden talks to Mike Bacon after Ipswich's 3-3 friendly draw at Colchester United

Luke Woolfenden's last league start for Ipswich was in the 2-1 defeat at Plymouth. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

That recent good form has seen Town climb right back into the play-off picture, now four points off the top six with 12 games to go.

But Woolfenden insists that the Blues aren't worried about what teams around them are doing, just keeping their eyes on what they need to do as a unit.

"We reflect on ourselves first and foremost and then look around at what others have done afterwards, he explained. "Where we are at the minute we just have to focus on ourselves.

"Anyone can beat anyone in this league. If you look at our fixtures, there's a lot of people who'd suggest we should win the majority of them.

"But it doesn't work like that in this league. You've got to turn up every game because teams are there and they will punish you."

Luke Woolfenden and Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna, on the pitch at the end of the 3-0 victory

Luke Woolfenden and Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna, on the pitch at the end of the 3-0 victory over Burton Albion. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

The architect of Town's turnaround has been McKenna, of course, with Woolfenden the latest of the Blues to sing his new manager's praises.

"He's done very well," said the Town defender. "All the boys are onboard. The squad size is a lot better now - there's not a lot of boys sitting around waiting for an opportunity, everyone's played and had their chances this season, so I think he's done very well.

"I think making players all feel like they're part of something here was his main aim in January.

"He made it clear when he came in that the squad size was way too big for the amount of games that we had left, so now it's down to size.

"It's a much tighter group and everyone can feel that they've got a part to play in this play-off push."

Asked if he'd been surprised by the impact made by the former Manchester United assistant coach, Woolfenden responded: "I'm a United fan, so I've heard through social media how good of a coach he is.

"There's been a lot of people high up in football - right at the very top - who speak very highly of him.

"So I wouldn't say I was expecting it to hit the ground running, but I've not been surprised how well we have done."

Next up for the Blues in the push for the play-offs are two long road trips - Morecambe this weekend, followed by Fleetwood a week later.

The Shrimps have a new manager in for this weekend - Derek Adams returning after the departure of Stephen Robinson for St Mirren - while Fleetwood include former Town defender Toto Nsiala in their ranks.

Toto Nsiala has departed Ipswich Town, signing for fellow League One side Fleetwood. Photo: Fleetwood Town FC

Toto Nsiala has departed Ipswich Town, signing for fellow League One side Fleetwood. Photo: Fleetwood Town FC - Credit: Fleetwood Town FC

"Now they've got a new manager, you're not too sure what to expect," Woolfenden said of the struggling Shrimps.

"You've just got to go into the game confident in your own abilities and focusing on us.

"It's going to be a tough game. They've got strong players up front and in the back.

"Morecambe and Fleetwood are going to be two long, difficult journeys."

Of the impending reunion with Nsiala, and the potential for the pair to clash at corners, Woolfenden laughed: "It will be good. He's an aggressive defender, Toto, so if we come face to face at corners we'll have to match his runs."

Away from his fine play on the pitch, the other talking point around Woolfenden this week has been his hair - the defender returned to the bleached blonde look for the Burton clash.

Luke Woolfenden back in the team for the trip to Home Park.

Luke Woolfenden back in the team for the trip to Home Park. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

"I don't really have any inspiration for it!" he said, when asked about his motivation for the new look.

"I've done it before, so I just thought 'you know what, I'm just going to do it again.' I've always changed my hair a lot, ever since I was a kid.

"It's just something I do, there's not much process behind it. I just text my barber the day before, and got it done.

"I'm not really the type of person to sit and think about things too much - although if it was orange I'd have probably regretted it!

"But it came out alright, so I'm sweet."

Suggested to him it was the Eminem look, he replied: "You'd take Eminem, wouldn't you? He's not done too bad for himself, has he?"