Just In:Ipswich Town: Kieran McKenna discusses resilience, facing Watford, and Tom Cleverley…

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna has said that his side have been quick to shake off the disappointment of their 1-0 defeat to arch-rivals Norwich, with focus turning to tomorrow’s game against Watford.
The Blues were unable to end their lengthy winless run in the East Anglian derby as Marcelino Nunez’s first-half free-kick handed them a sixth loss of the season.

Although the underwhelming performance certainly came as a surprise to those in the away end, McKenna has stressed that the squad worked hard to learn lessons from the clash at Carrow Road, which will hopefully help them to put in a stronger showing against the Hornets tomorrow night.

The players have trained well,” he explained. “Of course, there was a lot of disappointment after Saturday, but as professionals, you can’t afford to let that linger into the next week.

“On Monday morning, the players came in and we debriefed the game. From then, it’s been all about producing two good training sessions and getting ready for the next big game.

It’s an important game and a really exciting game to look forward to.”

Watford certainly won’t be a pushover, even if their season has fizzled out heading into the final few weeks. Under interim manager Tom Cleverley, they’ve recorded one win and four draws, taking points off two strong promotion contenders in the process.

“It’s going to be a really tough game, there’s no illusions about that,” McKenna argued. “I think they have a squad that’s easily capable of being in and around the play-off spots, to be honest.
I think they have depth, they have individual quality, they have physicality, they have good experience in some positions. It’s a really, really strong squad, one of the strongest squads in the division, for sure.

“They haven’t had a fantastic season, but now they’re four games in under a new manager and they’re undefeated in the four. They’re recently coming off draws against Leeds and West Brom, and they had leads in both games.
You can clearly see, when you watch those games, that they’re trying to make an impression – I’m sure for themselves, but also to impress a new manager and maybe their potential manager.

“We know we’re going to face a good version of Watford, we’re pretty sure of that. We also know that, at Portman Road, we’re a tough team to play against if we perform to our levels and can get the atmosphere as it has been all season. We can give anyone a really tough game.

“I expect a competitive game. We know it’s going to be a big challenge and that’s what we’re trying to prepare for.”
Perhaps the fact that they have nothing to play for could play against the Blues, who may be feeling the pressure in the automatic promotion race after dropping points on Saturday.
Watford, on the other hand, have a stress-free finale, albeit that the players will want to impress prospective permanent boss Cleverley. The fact that they sit comfortably in mid-table means that they can take the shackles off and play without fear, which may suit them when they travel to Suffolk.

“I’ve been involved in games like that, you can get them at the later stages of a season,” McKenna explained. “I’ve been involved in games like that where the other team are playing with a higher degree of freedom than they have for the rest of the season.

“That can provide a different type of challenge, but I think it’ll be a really tough game anyway, to be honest. The team is around two years out of the Premier League, they’ve still got the same players, they’ve recruited well in some of the other positions and there’s a really high level of quality in the team.
It’ll be a dangerous game anyway. How it pans out and whether the fact that they’re not one of the teams in the league with an immediate goal in terms of the table, whether that affects them or not is impossible to say.
Our focus can only really be on ourselves and our performance, and as we always do, being ready to face the strongest version of the opponent that we can come up against.”

Although both McKenna and Cleverley had extended spells with Premier League giants Manchester United, their spells never overlapped. The latter arrived just after the former left, although the Town boss has only ever heard positive things about the former midfielder, who only retired from playing in July last year.
There was no crossover,” he confirmed. “I know lots of people through the Man United association who speak about him very, very well as a player and a person.

“He knows the staff here – I think Martyn Pert worked with him in his very early days at Watford. Everyone speaks, very, very highly about him as a person.

“He’s done a good job so far and we wish him all the best, just not going into this game. We can see the impression he’s made on the team straight away.

“I’m sure, if he wants to do it, he’ll have a good chance to have a good coaching or managerial career.”

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