“You Have to Be Hard to Beat” – Mark Kennedy Talks Improved Defensive Record

Credit Graham Burrell

Imps manager Mark Kennedy has been talking to the press ahead of the weekend’s Sheffield Wednesday visit, specifically the improved defensive record we’ve seen of late.

Tuesday night’s victory over Newcastle’s Academy team made it 304 minutes (including injury time etc.) since we last conceded a goal, and even then, the two against Bolton were our own fault. It’s a huge improvement from the 6-3 win at Bristol Rovers, where the final result could just have easily been the other way around. Indeed, City now have seven clean sheets on the board this season; that’s as many as we got in the whole of the last campaign.

The boss admitted when he came to the club, he was focused on making us hard to beat.

“When I came to the club, I was worried about how we’d score goals,” he told BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s Rob Makepeace in an interview iFollow audio pass subscribers can find on the club’s official site. “I thought I’d make us hard to beat anyway, so I was confident in terms of the defensive side of things. The irony is we were scoring a lot of goals; I don’t mean we scored six in one game, we’ve scored in a high percentage of games, but we were also conceding a lot of goals.”

Behemoth at the back last weekend – Credit Graham Burrell

Of course, scoring freely and conceding freely is entertaining, but it isn’t a route to success in League One, as the boss explains.

“We’re not Brazil or Real Madrid, and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way; we’re very good, we’ve got a great group of players, but I don’t think we’re a team that’s going to win games 4-3. To win games of football, you’ve got to be hard to beat and tight at the back, so that was the biggest thing I was conscious of, trying to get more clean sheets. From that, it was a conversation of shape and personnel, but at first, it was 100% conceding goals.”

With three at the back expected again against the Owls, many people are envisaging a similar game to Ipswich and possibly Charlton Athletic, but Mark suggests otherwise.

“Every game is different, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing,” he said. “Our consistency and how we approach the game, that will never change.”

Newcastle game brought several benefits – Credit Graham Burrell

Another thing that won’t change drastically from the win at Ipswich is the team. Tashan Oakley-Boothe went off injured against Newcastle U21s and missed training Thursday, so it’s unclear if he’ll be part of the squad. Tom Hopper and Lewis Montsma are not expected to be fit, whilst Ted Bishop is not expected back this weekend. Mark chuckled when Rob suggested that was the initial plan, saying; “He’s ahead of schedule; I don’t like saying that, but he is; that’s the truth. I never said I was having him back this week, he’s ahead of schedule, but he’s a bit away.”

Finally, Mark did say we were not expecting anyone to come back, but Joe Walsh and Jacob Davenport both got minutes against Newcastle U21s and will likely expect to be around the squad, if not the starting XI, for the visit of the high-flying Owls.