Why McKenna plans to keep rotating his forwards

Ipswich Manager Kieran McKenna celebrates the away win at Doncaster.

Ipswich Manager Kieran McKenna celebrates the away win at Doncaster. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna says he plans to carry on rotating his forward players.

Over his eight games in charge, the Blues boss has started seven different players across the front three.

Macauley Bonne (504 minutes, one goal) has been given the most game time out of that septet ahead of James Norwood (438 mins, two goals), Conor Chaplin (386 mins, three goals), Sone Aluko (337 mins, no goals), Bersant Celina (309 mins, no goals), Joe PIgott (109 mins, no goals) and Kayden Jackson (91 mins, no goals). 

Asked if there was such a thing as his 'best team' following last night's 1-0 win at Doncaster, McKenna replied: “I think with the options we have up the pitch, I don’t think there’s such a thing for us at the moment.

“It’s different profiles for different games. Sometimes we’ve felt like two strikers a bit closer together was the best way. Sometimes split strikers down the sides of the centre-backs has been what we’ve felt is the best way and sometimes, like tonight, we’ve used players (Celina and Chaplin) in number 10 positions between the lines to play off a central striker.

Macauley Bonne tussles with his marker at Doncaster Rovers.

Macauley Bonne has started 26 of Ipswich Town's 31 league games this season. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

“It’s nice to have those options tactically. It’s nice to have the personnel who can play in different ways. It probably makes us harder to play and prepare against and enables us to look at these games as they come and think in what way we can use the resources at our disposal the best.”

Pigott was handed a rare start in last weekend's 1-0 home win against Gillingham, but then dropped out of the 18 completely last night. Asked if that was any reflection on the striker's performance against the Gills, McKenna insisted: “No, absolutely not. It’s just that way at the moment, you can only have 16 outfielders in the squad.

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“Sometimes we’ve got away with having the four strikers (Bonne, Norwood, Pigott and Jackson) in the squad, other times we’ve felt we can only have three and we need a bit of extra cover on the bench.

“We had a couple of boys with niggles going into the night, so we only travelled with the three strikers.

RH - Ipswich Town vs Gillingham

Joe Pigott has made just two league starts since the end of August. - Credit: Ross Halls

“I spoke to Joe. His performance on Saturday we thought was positive for him coming back into the team. All strikers are reliant on good service and he didn’t always get that on Saturday but he gave good things to the team.

“Like I’ve said, everyone’s going to be important. Sometimes people are going to miss out on a squad for a game or two because of the depth of numbers that we have but he’s going to be an important player for the rest of the season.”

McKenna has started 21 different players so far, with Kyle Edwards also coming off the bench. Defender Cameron Burgess and recalled striker Tyreece Simpson are the only two players yet to feature under the new boss.

“We’ve got a nice consistent base at the back at the moment with the players who are playing in the backline (Christian Walton, Janoi Donacien, Luke Woolfenden and George Edmundson) and our wing-backs (Wes Burns and Dominic Thompson)," said the Northern Irishman.

Bersant Celina at Doncaster Rovers.

Bersant Celina hasn't started back-to-back games for Ipswich Town since November. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

“Having said that, we’ve got people like Cam Burgess training and training fantastic, a good player at this level, an experienced player ready to step in when we need him.

“We’ve been consistent in the back half of the pitch. We’ve had issues in midfield (captain Sam Morsy having just served a four-game suspension and Lee Evans missing three matches through injury) which has forced us to rotate, but we’ve got good options and it’s given me a good chance to have a look at different players.

“We’ve missed our captain, who is a massive player for us, for four games and managed to win three of them, which is pleasing."

Six wins in eight under McKenna has closed the gap on the League One play-off places to six points ahead of Saturday's crunch game at high-flying MK Dons.

James Norwood in action against Gillingham.

James Norwood in action against Gillingham. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

STARTS UNDER MCKENNA

8: Donacien, Woolfenden, Edmundson, Burns.

7: Walton.

6: Bonne.

5: Evans, Norwood.

4: Morsy, Aluko, Chaplin.

3: Carroll, Bakinson, Thompson, Penney, Celina.

2: Vincent-Young.

1: Hladky, El Mizouni, Pigott, Jackson.

Sub only: Edwards.

Unused: Burgess, Simpson.