'They can score... it will come' - McKenna on striker goal shortage

Macauley Bonne and new Town manager Kieran McKenna embrace as the player is substituted late in the

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna embraces striker Macauley Bonne. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna believes the final piece of the jigsaw - goals - will come for his side.

The Blues have kept eight clean sheets in 12 since the Northern Irishman took charge, had the lion's share of possession in all of those games and, as time has gone on, created more and more chances.

A lack of ruthlessness in front of goal was all that was missing from last week's dominant but ultimately frustrating draws against Cheltenham (0-0 at home) and Morecambe (1-1 away).

Speaking ahead of Saturday's match at relegation-fighting Fleetwood, McKenna, whose side realistically need to win at least six or seven of their remaining 11 matches to stand a chance of finishing in the top six, said: "Over the last couple of games that's been the final piece. I think our performances over the course of 12 games have been very good. I think if you look at any objective markers in the league we're up at the top in terms of how many chances we create, how few chances give away. If you do that over a long period of time then you're going to win a lot of football matches.

"We had two games last week where the performances were very good and it wasn't matched in terms of conversion of chances. That's something that we've worked hard at to get to that level. We feel like our penetration and getting into dangerous areas has improved over the course of the 12 games to a point where we're happy with performances and we're creating good chances.

"We've worked again this week on little details in the final third. There are things to improve in terms of movement and in terms of execution of final pass, execution of cross, execution of finish. That's something we want to continue to get better at.

"Each game has its own life. Because we've played well and created chances in the last two games it doesn't mean that we're just going to do it at Fleetwood. We need to start from scratch again, we need to do the things well that we did well in the last two games again. Those things are numerous and they're not easy to repeat. It's not just about finishing chances. We have to hit those performance levels again.

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"If we do that we'll continue to create chances and, as I've said before, we have players in the building who have shown over a course of time they can score goals. 

"If we continue to fight to hit those performance levels then I think goals will come."

Town's four senior strikers - Macauley Bonne, James Norwood, Kayden Jackson and Joe Pigott - have scored just one goal between them over the last 10 games. Along with forward players Bersant Celina, Conor Chaplin and Sone Aluko, they have all been part of an attacking rotation system deployed by McKenna as he looks to not only keep everyone sharp and happy, but also select specific players for specific opposition.

Asked if he had considered giving one or two of those strikers a run of games to play their way back into form, the Blues boss replied: "Look, we consider everything. Picking the team and the set-up is always a complex thing over the course of a week. It involves our players own strengths, how we see the players in training, how the last game went and the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition that we're playing.

"Every player, not just strikers, enjoys the thought of having five or six games in a row and 'you're guaranteed to play no matter what'. Every player enjoys that feeling. 

"Initially it was very important to me to get a good look at everybody, to assess the squad and get everybody feeling like they're part of it and that everybody has a chance to contribute and to make an impression.

"I think that's been beneficial to the group, not just to the performances and the results, but very much it's been beneficial to the atmosphere and to the dynamic here at the training ground and around the club.

"I think we're at that stage now where everyone feels part of it and everyone knows there's an opportunity there. But we're also coming to the business end of the season and it's also very much about staking the claim for your place in the team. 

"For those who are fortunate enough to get the shirt on Saturday it will be up to them to put in a really good performance, in whatever position, and try and make it very hard for me to leave them out of the team.

"That's the challenge across all position. I think the players know that's where we are at in the season and that's where we are at as group. Everyone is a part of it, but it's up those who get the opportunity to fight to play more and more minutes and it's up to those who aren't selected for any given game to fight and train and show they deserve the opportunity to get in the team and stay in the team."

MCKENNA'S FORWARD ROTATION

Wycombe (1-0 home win): Aluko, Bonne, Norwood (goal).

Gillingham (4-0 away win): Aluko, Bonne (goal), Norwood (goal).

Bolton (2-0 away loss); Aluko, Bonne, Norwood.

Accrington (2-1 home win): Celina, Chaplin, Bonne.

AFC Wimbledon (2-0 away win): Aluko, Bonne, Jackson.

Sheffield Wednesday (1-0 away loss): Celina, Chaplin, Bonne.

Gillingham (1-0 home win): Chaplin, Pigott, Norwood.

Doncaster (1-0 away win): Chaplin, Celina, Bonne.

MK Dons (0-0 away draw): Chaplin, Celina, Jackson.

Burton (3-0 home win): Jackson (goal), Pigott, Aluko.

Cheltenham (0-0 home draw): Chaplin, Celina, Jackson.

Morecambe (1-1 away draw): Aluko, Bonne, Norwood.