'We can't take our eye off the ball' - McKenna on Cambridge United visit

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna looks on.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna is among the early favourites for the soon-to-be vacant Watford job. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna says his team cannot afford to let their levels slip by 'even one per cent' if they are to beat Cambridge United this weekend.

The Blues are now 11 games unbeaten following last weekend's comprehensive 1-0 home win against high-flying Plymouth and, with the feelgood factor around the club growing by the week, a crowd of more than 25,000 is expected at Portman Road tomorrow.

Cambridge arrive in Suffolk sitting 16th in the table having recently suffered heavy losses at Sheffield Wednesday (6-0), Wycombe (3-0) and Oxford United (4-2).

“We’re expecting a tough game for a lot of different reasons," said McKenna. 

“Cambridge are a good team, they’ve pretty much secured their safety, they’ve developed well under Mark (Bonner) over the last two seasons and established themselves well in the league. 

“They’ve also had a really good FA Cup run. They beat an almost full-strength Newcastle team at St James’ Park just two months ago, so if we needed any reminding that there are no guarantees in football and that there’s never a moment where you can think that you’re going to have it come easy to you then that result is a good enough reminder for us. 

“We know they are very consistent with their shape and very consistent in how they go about their game. They play with good energy, are aggressive, play balls to the front, have good support around the front, get good bodies in the box for crosses and they’ve showed that they can score goals as they did against us earlier in the season (Town letting a 2-0 lead slip to draw 2-2 at The Abbey). 

Most Read

“I’m sure they’ll want to finish their season off on a high, I’m sure they’ll see coming to Portman Road as an attractive fixture for them and will want to come and give a good account of themselves. We have to be prepared to face an energetic and motivated team. We’ll have to be at our best. 

“We’ll be ready for it. The boys have trained ever so well this week. The focus and intensity has been really, really good. I think and I hope that we are experienced enough to understand there is absolutely no opportunity to take our eye off the ball or ease off our intensity even one per cent from what it was last weekend. 

“That’s been the message all through the week and thankfully those messages have been driven from the players as well, not just from myself and the staff. 

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna punches the air in celebration after his side had secured a 1-0

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna is keen to see his team finish the season strongly. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

“I feel like we are going into the game with a good level of preparation. We’ll give Cambridge the absolute respect they deserve, but I feel like if we get ourselves right, are at our best and take care of all the little details then we’ve got a really good chance of putting in a really good performance and to win the game." 

Ipswich, five points adrift of sixth spot having played a game more than those around them, will need a near perfect six-game finish to stand any chance of gatecrashing the play-off places.

It's a big ask - especially as the Easter period consists of games against top-two Rotherham and Wigan. However, hope comes from the fact that the Blues are not only unbeaten in 11, but can also strongly argue that they could easily have won the five draws in that run - MK Dons, Cheltenham, Morecambe, Portsmouth and Oxford.

Given the above, this is do-able... isn't it? When the above was put to McKenna, he smiled broadly and paused to consider his answer.

“There’s a lot of substance in our performances," he agreed. "Sometimes you can be on a good winning or unbeaten run, but have come very, very close to losing games and that feels less repeatable. 

“At the moment I think we’ve hit a really consistent performance level over a good period of time. When you’ve done that you feel that you are capable of continuing to deliver consistent performances. 

“Results in football are a strange thing though. The winning/unbeaten run that we’re going to need to the end of the season, I think, would be highly abnormal at any level. 

“Random things can happen in a football match. One of our best and most dominant performances, our highest expected goals and lowest against, was Morecambe – and we dropped points there. There’s probably not that many things I would do differently if we had that game again. 

“We can’t control the results fully. All we can control is the performances."

Town fans at head of the game.

More than 25,000 tickets have been sold for tomorrow's game between Ipswich Town and Cambridge United at Portman Road. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

He added: “Getting the result last weekend tees up this weekend nicely. It just keeps the pot bubbling. 

“We just want to take it a game at a time. Try and win this one and then set up another big one the following weekend. 

“Then if we win that then we have another must-win massive game the week after that. 

“That’s the way it’s going to be until the end of the season for us if we’re going to have any chance of getting to where we want to get to. 

“The support has been great, the atmosphere has been great and we’re really buzzing for it again tomorrow. 

“There’s been so much energy around the training ground this week and I think a big part of that has been everybody looking forward to getting back to Portman Road this weekend. 

“We hope we can give them a performance to get behind and a result to enjoy."