Millwall manager Neil Harris is happy that many of his squad were able to gain minutes as well as advancing to the Carabao Cup Second Round as The Lions ran out 3-1 winners on penalties following a stalemate at The Den.
Millwall kept their second successive clean sheet on Tuesday night but needed the shootout to overcome the challenge of Steve Lovell's Gills.
“The bottom line is that we’re through to the Second Round of the Cup, we’ve got bragging rights for our fans for beating local rivals, and there were some strong performances tonight,” Harris says.
“We lacked a little bit of cohesion at times, and I hold my hands up for that for throwing a team together and putting them out there with limited time to work on it.
“There was some really good play – we were patient at times and used the ball well, opening Gillingham up, and then other times we looked a little bit rusty in our decision making – we came here to get through, however we did it.”
Harris made 10 changes for the tie, and explains that he is looking to keep the entire squad fit and sharp.
“We were able to get minutes for the likes of Byron Webster and Jiří Skalák, who haven’t played a lot of football in the last 12 months.
“Tonight was an opportunity to use the squad. We need to make sure everybody’s fresh, and I made the changes because firstly I wanted to see my players, wanted to see them perform and give them game time, but also wanted to make sure some players are rested for the weekend.”
The boss says it is important that his team strike a balance between defending and attacking well, starting with Saturday’s Sky Bet Championship clash with Frank Lampard’s Derby County.
“You want to be creative and score goals, but if you can’t do that you need to keep clean sheets. Against Middlesbrough, we were fantastic with the ball, scored two, could’ve got six, but didn’t have the clean sheet mentality to see the game out and win it.
“Away at Blackburn we weren’t quite as good with the ball, but we stood strong to get a clean sheet. You want a bit of both, and my teams have to be aggressive and hard to beat, whilst expecting some good play as well – which I expect to see against Derby County this weekend.”
Harris praises the impact of the returning Byron Webster and goalkeeper Ben Amos, both of whom played starring roles in the deciding shootout.
“Ben [Amos] showed his quality as a goalkeeper tonight. He was perhaps a bit rusty when he joined us halfway through pre-season, but his handling and the shots he had to deal with he did well, and the penalty saves were outstanding.
“Byron [Webster] takes a good penalty. He’s practiced penalties before and he was always going to take one as long as he was happy to.
“I let the players have a short period when they decide who wants to take a penalty – there’s no blame culture – but when they take one I expect them to be calm and methodical in what they’re doing. Luckily for me, seven players wanted to take one.”