'Our worst performance in a while' - McKenna on Cambridge defeat

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna looks on.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna says his team have got to find ways to get results when not at their best following this afternoon's 1-0 home defeat to Cambridge United.

Dominic Thompson's 56th minute own goal was the difference as the below-par Blues saw their 11-game unbeaten run come to a frustrating end.

"It's a very disappointing day for everyone involved," said McKenna, Town's hopes of gatecrashing the League One play-offs almost certainly over now with five games to go.

"I thought it was certainly our worst performance for quite a while. Especially in the first half the performance wasn't at the levels we expect.

"I thought they dominated on the first and second balls all game. They were stronger than us on set-plays in both boxes all game. And we didn't manage to get our in-possession game going in the first half.

Cambridge United keeper Dimitar Mitov saves as Wes Burns closes in.

Cambridge United keeper Dimitar Mitov saves as Wes Burns closes in. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

"For a few different reasons we didn't manage to get our positioning quite right in the middle of the pitch. We didn't give ourselves the right options on the ball. We didn't have enough aggression, enough penetration in our play to really threaten their goal.

"First half was bitty. We didn't manage to get a rhythm and a tempo to our play. They managed to put more balls into our box than we would want them to and more than what many teams have been able to do against us recently.

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"I thought we rectified a few things at half-time. I thought if we kept our concentration it was there for us to go and build pressure and eventually go on and win, but we gave away daft set plays, conceded a silly goal, allowed them to get that 1-0 lead and then it's easy for them to break the play up and take the sting out of the game with something to hold on to. 

"Look, it's definitely a step back in terms of performance and in terms of a result. It's the first game we've lost in a while. We need to learn from this. We're very disappointed at the moment, but it's a team that has developed well over the last period and we need to use this as a big learning block and a big motivation and we need to move forward."

McKenna continued: "Credit Cambridge as well, they are a big, strong team. They came here after a good result last weekend (1-0 win at AFC Wimbledon) and they gave it everything they had. I thought their forwards were good on long balls and they ran harder than us on second balls.

"Their shape has been consistent all season, so it wasn't something that we weren't prepared for. They're a very fit, physically imposing and well-organised team. I can't say that they deserved to win the game, but they certainly put on a good performance. They'll certainly be happier with their performance than we are with ours. They managed to get the goal and we didn't.

Town players surround referee Craig Hicks and assistant Damith Bandara following the final whistle.

Town players surround referee Craig Hicks and assistant Damith Bandara following the final whistle. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

"I don't think there was a motivation or attitude issue from us. The players wanted to do well in the game. But teams like Cambridge can give you a challenge. It's not easy. They can threaten your box with different types of play. It was a challenge we didn't stand up to well enough.

"I don't think we were aggressive enough in terms of runs behind, in terms of crosses and in terms of getting enough bodies into the box. These are things that I think we have made good strides on and improved considerably over the last month to six weeks, but I think today was a step backwards."

McKenna, who said he had no complaints over Town being disallowed a goal for offside towards the end, added: "At the moment we probably need to play very well to win a game and we need to put together a very good passage of play to score a goal. 

"We've played very well and won plenty of games, but we've also played well and drawn games. Now we've played not so well and lost a game. That's an area we need to really look at. We need to investigate the reasons why and work on that, because there are not many teams in world football who can play well every week.

"We've played to a really high level consistently, but it's important that on the days you don't play so well you find ways to win games. We've managed to draw games, and today lose a game, when we've not been at our best.

"That's clearly something for us to work on, to investigate and to very much have in our heads for the rest of the season and going into the summer."

The gap to sixth has now grown to six points. Ipswich only have five games to go and, crucially, the teams around them all have a game in hand to come.

"I'm not thinking about that," said McKenna. "It's an extremely disappointing result at home. In front of a big home crowd we weren't able to produce what we needed to produce. I'm not thinking at all about other teams' results. I'm disappointed in our performance today. We'll look to be better next weekend at Shrewsbury."