Ipswich Town boss delivers honest verdict on Sunderland win and what pleased him the most
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Kieran McKenna admitted his Ipswich Town side weren't at their best in their 2-1 win over Sunderland but praised his players for finding a way to win despite missing a number of key players.
Striker George Hirst has been ruled out for an extended period through injury, while McKenna's usual first-choice central midfield period of Sam Morsy and Massimo Luongo were absent through suspension and injury respectively. The Ipswich boss praised Sunderland's performance but said he believed his side had done enough to win the game.
"I thought it was a really good game, a tough game, against a good side with lots of talented players of a really high technical level," McKenna said.
"A really hard-fought, strong and committed performance was needed to get the win and that's what we gave.
"It wasn't our smoothest performance in terms of some of our build-up and connections through the pitch, but that's normal and to be expected. Throughout the season you're not always going to be at your best, but obviously with the players we have missing things aren't always going to be as smooth as they are with players who have great familiarity.
"When you're not at your absolute highest level you have to show all the other ingredients - the commitment, the intensity, the running, the work rate for the team. We certainly showed all that, both from those who started and from those who came on.
"I thought we carried a threat throughout the game and had the better of the chances. It was great to get the winning goal from a set play. Overall, it was a good night, a good performance. Of course there are areas to improve, but that's natural and understandable."
Ipswich had gone five Championship games without a win coming into the contest, though they had only lost one of those. McKenna said it was a big win for his side as they relaunch their push for promotion.
"There's going to be a spell where you don't win games," McKenna said.
"That's normal for any team, certainly a newly-promoted team. But it does feel like a big win because we've gone from having a really settled 11 for over 12 months to making a lot of changes. In the QPR game here we had maybe seven players stepping in who hadn't played very much and some of them playing out of position.
"Again tonight, we've got a left centre-back, two pivots and a striker - that's basically your spine, your central connections on the ball - all gone. So it feels like a big win because we're missing players who've played regularly. We've got other people stepping into roles who are trying to develop.
"We weren't at our absolute most fluent on the ball, we're playing against a really good side and we go behind in the game. So when you come out of nights like that, showing the spirit that we did, on the right side of a hard fought game it feels like a big victory for sure."