Neil Harris has commended the fight shown by his Millwall players after emerging 1-0 winners over Reading at The Den on Wednesday.
Harris’ Lions took three points from nine-man Reading through a superb Jed Wallace free-kick eight minutes into the game, with new Reading manager Jose Gomes losing his first match in charge.
“I think we showed a lot of heart and a lot of energy, after playing well without any reward in games this season,” the manager says.
“Whilst it wasn’t a great performance, we showed desire and moments of quality. We could and should have gone on and got another one or two, and I can understand the edginess when we’ve lost leads late on this year.
“It was a cup final today – those were the words Shaun Williams used before the game. We needed three huge points.”
The boss credits goalscorer Wallace for his contribution in the clash, along with Ryan Leonard who ‘set the spark’ in the atmosphere for the victory.
“Jed showed his importance to us and quality at this level. There were two great free-kicks in the game, Jed scoring and John Swift just hitting the underside of the bar.
“It was a typical Boxing Day atmosphere to start with – Ryan Leonard in the first minute set the spark and I thought he was excellent. If you get the second goal, it makes life a lot easier, but we dug in.”
Harris praises Gomes’ Royals for their display at The Den, and highlights the need for momentum in the busy festive schedule of fixtures – rolling on with Nottingham Forest’s visit to SE16 on Saturday afternoon.
“Reading showed a lot of character and showed how they are going to play for the rest of the season. They’ll pass the ball, cause teams problems and they have some good players. For us today, it was about getting over the line.
“I’m not sure if I’m relieved, because I expect us to win games. We play good teams every week, but I expect us to beat sides especially here at The Den. I’m pleased for the players because they feel my frustration, they want to do well and they know it’s been hard for us so far. I hope it gives us belief, momentum and confidence going into Saturday.
“It’s a huge game against Nottingham Forest, and it will be a great atmosphere because Forest are a massive club and our fans will turn up, not expecting us just to come out and win. I’m hoping for it to be a lot more relaxed than it was today, and my players will feed off that.”
Harris claims the Sky Bet Championship table ‘looks healthier’ following the three points, and expects his side to match Aitor Karanka’s Play-Off-chasing Forest outfit.
“We have three vital games in seven days – seasons can be won or lost at Christmas and Easter, because of the quick turnaround. The League table looks healthier after winning today, and teams above you are within sight again.
“I don’t expect to just turn up and win on Saturday. I expect us to compete with Forest, be as good as them and impose our game on them.”
The manager concludes with a word on the members of his squad out on loan deals, including midfielder Ben Thompson and forward Fred Onyedinma, at Portsmouth and Wycombe Wanderers respectively.
“All of our loan players will be available for recall in January, and we’ll make decisions as they come,” Harris states.