Kieran McKenna hailed his Ipswich players for coming back from behind to win 2-1 at Watford and move to the top of the Championship.
Yaser Asprilla put the Hornets ahead early on but George Hirst’s equaliser set up an entertaining contest that was settled late on by Town captain Sam Morsy, who capitalised on an error by Wesley Hoedt.
McKenna, whose side are now 10 points clear of third-placed Leeds, said: “It was a performance that was all about the character in the group.
“Even at 1-1, even with tired legs, they stayed brave. The players dug in and gave every ounce of effort that they had in every minute of the game. If you do that then you deserve to come out on the right side of a difficult game.”
McKenna had extra praise for Morsy, who is a rare scorer.
“Sam is normally our deepest midfielder and it is not in his job description to go pressing centre-halves,” he said.
“He is saying that he scuffed it but it looked like a really good finish. He is being a bit modest. It was a great bit of determination.”
Ipswich host Norwich on Saturday in the first East Anglia derby since 2019 having lost just twice in the league all season.
McKenna said: “It’s a game to embrace. This is a massive derby for our supporters. We will prepare it as we do any other game and respect the opponent.”
Ipswich gifted Watford a 12th-minute lead when goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky passed straight to Asprilla. He set up Mileta Rajovic and Hladky parried the striker’s shot directly back to Asprilla, who smashed the ball high into the net.
The visitors levelled in the 24th minute after Ben Hamer parried Omari Hutchinson’s deflected shot to Hirst for a simple finish.
Ipswich took all three points thanks to Hoedt’s 80th-minute clanger. The Dutch defender lost possession to Morsy and the Egypt midfielder strode forward to slot past Hamer.
Watford manager Valerien Ismael had words of encouragement for his captain.
He said: “Mistakes are a part of the game. There is no vaccine against mistakes. We have to make sure we concentrate and stay in the game.
“We are all together, we support him and in three days he can show his quality.
“We are really disappointed to lose a game like that but we showed again that we are ready to compete and show our level.
“In the first half the main issue was we needed more control. We got that in the second half. At the other end the mistake we made was difficult, it shocked us, but it is a learning process now.
“We know that we can score at any time so we need to be more calm and defend better.
“Now it is about the fine details – we need to become ruthless in front of goal. It is the balance we need to find now. The players have the desire to close the gap but we have to have more composure in certain situations.”