Neil Harris has expressed his excitement for Millwall’s return to home soil this Saturday when Bolton Wanderers enter the Lions’ Den (kick-off 3pm).
Harris’ team have been without home action in the Sky Bet Championship since October’s 3-0 victory over Ipswich Town, a third straight League win in SE16.
“I can’t wait for the game – it seems a long time since we’ve been at The Den, with our victories over Wigan and Ipswich,” the manager says.
“We come off the back of what was, for 93 minutes, a fantastic away performance at Norwich, where we were so close to earning a valuable three points and then a valuable point. Then we had to deal with disappointment of the end of the game afterwards.
“But the lads have again taken it in their stride, and we’ve learnt a huge amount in the last 10-14 days about the players and their willingness to want to improve. We’re certainly looking forward to being back at The Den against Bolton, which is a big game in the sense that both teams are in similar positions in the League. Every fixture at this level at The Den has a huge importance to it, and Saturday will be no different.”
Following the matches contested in November so far this season, Harris has highlighted positives to work on in preparation for Saturday’s game along with claiming the team have embarked on plenty of tactical ‘classroom’ work at Calmont Road.
“I think we saw the importance of the training sessions leading up to the Norwich game on the back of our trip to Brentford, where we were really poor on the ball. We highlighted how we could be better with the ball, and we scored three excellent goals.
“We played some really good, composed football, and showed real quality in our approach play, creating chances as we have done in most of our recent fixtures.
“But we weren’t tight enough at the back. The mindset of the players has been to learn – we’ve done the classroom stuff which may sound basic and school-like, but it’s important to us. Analytical work is huge in the game.”
The manager says the team have used the increased time from the recent international break to good effect in training, working to improve both defensively and when in possession.
“The players have responded well. The sessions on the training pitch have not just been defensive-based, but also looking to continue to be better with our end product.
“We’ve also been getting the right sessions into individual players. Some haven’t played a lot of football and need minutes, others have been on international duty and had the great honour of representing their countries.
“What I will say is that the squad is in a terrific place – they have quickly got over conceding in the last minute at Norwich, and the players have been outstanding, attacking every session. There’s a huge excitement to be back at The Den for three of our next four games.”
Harris says he expects a physical test against the visiting Bolton side, and is insistent that the game will be a tough, close battle with Phil Parkinson’s side who sit below The Lions on goal difference.
“I would have thought [it will be a physical game], yes. We have good battles with Bolton, and we like the guys there, Phil [Parkinson] and Steve [Parkin]. They set their teams up to be aggressive, but also to play. Bolton are playing more football than perhaps they have done in the past, so that makes them a difficult side to face.
“Yes, you can look at their current form – they haven’t had great results lately, but we know at this level that anybody can beat anybody, and they have some great individual players. It will be a tough game, but it’s a good, positive change for us to be back at The Den.”
Finally touching on team news, Harris says the squad are reporting a clean bill of health for the weekend aside from long-term absentee Tom Bradshaw, along with the unavailability of ineligible loanee Ben Amos.
“We’re good in terms of team news. Obviously, we have the natural change of picking a goalkeeper to replace Ben, and some of the performances in training and in a behind-closed-doors game we played last week were outstanding.
“We of course also have the unfortunate long-term injury to Tom, but other than that, we have a squad of players all wanting to play.
“There is a real hunger among the players going into the weekend, with players who have been out of the team looking to get back in, and players in the team wanting to stay there after a good run of games.”