North Stander: The Midas Touch! And McKenna seems to have it

Kieran McKenna celebrates the win at Fleetwood Town.

Kieran McKenna celebrates the win at Fleetwood Town. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Kieran McKenna certainly seems to have something of King Midas about him. Everything he touches turns to gold – even when he makes the most surprising of substitutions.

The game at Fleetwood saw yet another example. Midway through the second half, it seemed to be heading to the same frustrating conclusion as the previous two matches. Loads of possession, but no cutting edge.

So, time for a change...and McKenna was apparently spoiled for choice, with attacking options Macauley Bonne, James Norwood, and Sone Aluko on the bench.

Just for you: Kayden Jackson after giving Ipswich a 2-0 lead at Fleetwood Town.

Just for you: Kayden Jackson after giving Ipswich a 2-0 lead at Fleetwood Town. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

But, to the surprise of most of us, the player who replaced target man Joe Pigott was holding midfielder Tyreeq Bakinson.

What was this? It almost looked like a McCarthy-type change...

But, of course, it was actually a clever move which very quickly reaped dividends.

It released the mercurial Bersant Celina to play further forward, took the shackles off Sam Morsy, and almost within the blink of an eye we had won the game. Brilliant

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I love the way that McKenna thinks “outside the box,” as they say. He doesn’t just do the ruddy obvious. He always seems to be a step or two ahead of everyone else.

His record is at Town is mightily impressive. No fewer than 27 points from 13 games. More than two points per game, in other words. Nine clean sheets. That’s an extraordinary stat. And this is no new manager bounce. It’s baked in.

So, the season is still alive. Can we do it? Can we gate-crash the top six? To make it, we will have to keep up the two points per game average we’ve achieved under McKenna so far.

Kayden Jackson is congratulated by George Edmundson at Fleetwood Town.

Kayden Jackson is congratulated by George Edmundson at Fleetwood Town. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

It certainly won’t be easy, given the strength of the opposition coming up during our last ten games.

But it is possible, and even if we fall short we can all see the huge progress we’re making.

The transformation in some players under McKenna really has been remarkable. Take Luke Woolfenden, for example. His career seemed to be on the buffers under Paul Cook.

Now, he’s at the heart of a defence which looks rock solid week in, week out. Woolfenden thoroughly deserved to be named player of the month for February.

Happy travelling Town fans at Fleetwood.

Happy travelling Town fans at Fleetwood. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Then there’s Kayden Jackson, of course. The man signed during the disastrous Paul Hurst era (if a matter of a few months deserves to be called an era) looked to have absolutely no future at Portman Road. But McKenna saw something in the speedy striker, started picking him, gave him confidence, and now he’s scoring goals again. It’s a great story.

His goal on Saturday was typical Jackson, using his pace to get in behind.

Mind you, I had to have a sneaky and slightly cruel smile about Toto Nsiala’s hapless role in that goal.

If you watch the replay, dear old Toto looks like he’s playing the playground game of statues. He stands absolutely still as Jackson - one of the quickest strikers in this division - runs into space behind him to pick up Celina’s pass and goes on to slip the ball past the keeper.

Thank goodness we don’t have to suffer those Toto “moments” any longer.

Going back to the subject of McKenna improving players, let’s look at skipper Sam Morsy.

The Egyptian was signed by Paul Cook as his enforcer, the hard man to win battles in midfield.

Early on, he was doing that fine, but he really offered very little going forward. McKenna has put that right. Morsy is now pushing forward, making penetrating runs, and looking like a goal threat.

It was good to see him open his Town account at Fleetwood. Don’t underestimate how good a finish that was, on a ploughed field of a pitch with the ball likely to take a bobble at any moment.

It was also good to see one of those trademark low Wes Burns crosses paying off.

So, here we are in March, and the season certainly hasn’t fizzled out. We now have a very big week ahead with two tough home games against Lincoln and Portsmouth.

The margin for error is so tiny that six points really are essential. It will be intriguing to see what formation – or in-game changes – King Midas McKenna comes up with!