'It's not a beauty contest' - McKenna on crunch clash at MK Dons

Ipswich Manager Kieran McKenna celebrates the away win at Doncaster.

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

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna insists Saturday's crunch League One clash at MK Dons is 'not a beauty contest'.

The Blues have won six out of eight games since McKenna arrived, having the lion's share of possession in all those matches. MK Dons, who sit third in the table under the management of former Town youth boss Liam Manning, are also known for their passing principles.

“They’re a team who obviously like to play with the ball," said McKenna. "They build up from the back well. They play brave and open. 

“There are some similarities between them and us, but for me it’s not a competition to see who’s going to have more of the ball. For me it’s a competition to see who scores the most goals. 

“We want to impose our style. We feel that the best way to score goals is by playing our football, but I’m sure they’ll be thinking the same. 

“We have to weigh everything up; look at our team and our strengths, look at their team and their strengths, look at the conditions. At the moment they are having difficulties with their pitch, which obviously changes the dynamic a little bit as well. 

“We’ll look to impose our style, they’ll look to impose their style and at the end of the day both teams are going to be desperately going for a win. 

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“It’s not going to be a beauty contest, it’s about which team can find a way to be more effective in the game."

Town, who are now six points adrift of the play-off places following successive 1-0 wins against relegation-fighting duo Gillingham and Doncaster, will be backed by around 7,200 travelling supporters at Stadium MK.

“That's incredible," enthused McKenna. "I believe it’s going to be one of, if not the highest attendances for an away team in the EFL all season, from Championship to League Two. 

“It will definitely gives us a boost.

“It shows the scale and the passion of the fanbase. It also shows the positivity around the club under the new ownership. It feels like people are pulling together and trying to get behind the team, which we really appreciate. 

"Obviously it’s a very big stadium, but having 7,000 there will be a really special feeling. I’m sure they’ll be vocal and behind the players. 

“The players are really appreciative of it. We hope we can deliver a performance that justifies it."

MK Dons drew 1-1 at Fleetwood on Tuesday night, but won five of their previous six games. Only goal difference keeps them outside the automatic promotion places.

“They have a good mix across the backline of some experienced players and also some good young defenders," said McKenna. "Generally their defensive shape looks more like a 5-4-1. They’re pretty compact, they do press high at times, but lots of times they happy to drop in for that first 20 or 30 yards and let you come up the pitch.  

“They’re not going to make it easy for us to get the spaces we want. It’s going to be a challenge for us to go there and create chances, but that’s what we’re going to look to do."

On the importance of the game, the Northern Irishman added: “For me it’s three points, to be honest. There's still so much football to be played this season. We have so many games against the top teams still to come. 

“We desperately want to win the game and we’ll give everything we can. We’ve picked up a couple of wins in a row and we want to make that three wins. 

“But, as I’ve said all along, I’ve not spent too much time looking at the table and how many points ahead or behind we are teams. 

“There’s plenty of time for that further down the road. 

“It’s good that people are getting excited. We want the fans to be optimistic, we want them to be excited, but for us it really is a case of one game at a time. 

“We were a long way behind and we still have a lot of ground to make up. It doesn't make any sense to start worrying about league positions or points totals. It’s one game at a time. 

“We’re happy with the games we’ve won. There have been some good performances and there are some we could improve on. I’m happy with the development of the team, happy with the development of individuals. 

“We know we’re not going to win every game. Very often as managers and coaches it’s the ones that get away that sit with you a little bit more rather than dwelling on the victories. We’re just looking at trying to get better whether we win or don’t win. 

“We’re still at the very early stages of what we want to do and there’s lot of scope for improvement. 

“Honestly, I’m not worrying too much about points totals. I know people will talk about it, but you’re not going to get me on it! I’ve barely mentioned points targets to the players. It’s just ‘go at every game with the right attitude and let’s see where we’re at in a month or twos time’."