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Harris lauds belief of squad after battling to away point

The manager reflects on Sunday afternoon's draw at Ashton Gate

2 December 2018

Neil Harris has praised the way Millwall got 'back to basics' on Sunday afternoon following Shaun Williams' equaliser to peg back Bristol City at Ashton Gate.

The Lions bounced back from the midweek defeat to Birmingham City to claim the point against Lee Johnson's side - and Harris is pleased with the character shown by his players.

"It does feel like a significant performance and result," the manager says.

"I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't pretty by us at times - what I said to the guys on the back of Wednesday was that we had to get back to basics from that result.

"We needed to get back to being hard to beat, resolute, nasty and ugly at times, and I had to remind the players that it didn't just happen for us when we won games last year - we had to be all of those things then to get a foothold in the division. Expectations of us were that we would hit the ground running this season, and we've had up and down periods."

The boss describes the past week as a 'reality check', and commends how The Lions 'found a way' to earn reward from the game.

"We haven't done the basics well enough at times, and the last seven days have probably been a reality check for us. We were excellent against Bolton and didn't win the game, we got beaten against Birmingham with 10 men for a long period - so today we had to be that difficult Millwall team to play against.

"Bristol City had a lot of the ball and fashioned some really good play. They got into our box a few times, but didn't really create too many clear-cut chances.

"The boys had to show character, resilience and the ability to bounce back. We're losing centre-forwards at a huge rate at the moment, and we could have gone under at 1-0 with Aiden coming off and not having many attacking players on the pitch, but we found a way."

Harris highlighted the display of central defenders Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper throughout the 90 minutes, and claims Hutchinson was firmly 'back to his best' in the match.

"I have to give a special mention to both centre-halves - I know Jake scored the own goal which will always look terrible on paper, the same as Mezza [James Meredith] the other night. There's nothing you can do about those.

"I keep wondering when our luck is going to change, and it hasn't yet, so we have to keep doing what we're doing and digging in. The two centre-halves were phenomenal with their first contacts in the area, and Hutch in particular was back to his best today - that's what we need.

"To even compete in this division, all players have to be at their best - that's what clicked in the second half of last season, the majority of our team were at their best every game. The reality for me is that we've not sustained that and struggled."

The importance of unity is again stressed by Harris, who says the result at Ashton Gate can provide a foundation to progress from.

"If we go and give a good account of ourselves against Hull, we'll give ourselves a good chance of winning the game. If we carry on doing it, we'll start to win games.

"The message is clear to me - let's all have a reality check to where we're at, me included and all the players, board and supporters - everyone in it together. We can start to win games again if we build off today's platform."

Harris expresses his delight with the dominance of the team during spells, and how the players dealt with injuries to goalscorer Williams and Aiden O'Brien.

"Willo [Williams] has had a good return this season. Obviously, he picked up the injury, so we'll have to see how that one goes. The character we showed after conceding the goal, for me, was important. We didn't go under, and we dominated up until we scored.

"With Willo and Aiden having to come off, we were a bit unfamiliar and had to go to five at the back to stand strong at the end. For a team who have been questioned to go and do what we did at a place like this, shows the belief amongst the group."

The manager has finally given a fitness update after further injuries during the game, but is as yet uncertain of players' availability for Hull City's visit to The Den next weekend.

"Tom Elliott has a hamstring injury as we know, but right now I don't know what chance any of the other injured players have for next Saturday. I always think that with players who come off with muscle injuries, we're unlikely to see for a few weeks.

"At the moment, I would say Tom and Lee are unlikely, Moro's was a hamstring again, and Aiden and Willo came off unable to walk. But then players have their opportunities and I thought Jed [Wallace] was outstanding up front with some great link-up play.

"We'll focus one day at a time, and Paul Tanner (club physio) will certainly have his work cut out this week."

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