Neil Harris says Millwall ‘thoroughly deserved’ a point from Saturday afternoon’s 1-1 draw with Bolton Wanderers at The Den, and commends the character of the team to peg the visitors back late on.
Former Lions defender Mark Beevers headed Phil Parkinson’s side into a first-half lead, before an equaliser eight minutes from time as Jiri Skalak’s shot found its way past Ben Alnwick – potentially via a Jake Cooper touch.
“I think we thoroughly deserved at least a point out of it,” the manager says.
“Losing Tom Elliott in the first half to injury affected us in terms of how we want to play, and we then didn’t have the threat to play the longer, diagonal ball to put the pressure on Bolton. It had been very effective in the first 20 minutes with the areas we got into, and we had to find another way.
“I said to the players that for a team labelled as a ‘long-ball team’ and direct, we showed some real quality on the ball. The chances we created and areas we worked into were first-class.”
Harris describes the Bolton opener as ‘avoidable’, but has lauded the performance of Jordan Archer between the Millwall sticks, replacing the ineligible Ben Amos.
“To show the character we did to come from 1-0 down and get a point was important. The main disappointment was that their goal was avoidable for us, albeit before Jordan [Archer] makes a great save to keep us in it.
“The number of times we got into their final third and we weren’t front-foot enough onto the second balls was something I haven’t said to the players in a long time before today and will be something for us to think about before Wednesday.
“Jordan made a fantastic double-save, and they had a penalty shout. I thought it was a foul – but it looked outside the box. We got away with that, but then we had two off the line, missed a couple of glaring opportunities and got into really good areas without really capitalising.”
The boss claims the second half was a joy to watch for his side, and praised the impact of the home supporters on our first League contest at The Den in four weeks.
“I thought, all-in-all, that we were the better team in the first half, but we were behind. Bolton sat deep and got 10 men behind the ball to stop us in the second half, and I thought we were really bright and the fans were excellent to stick with us.
“[The fans] understood we couldn’t go back-to-front, in that we couldn’t knock it up towards Tom [Elliott] or Steve [Morison], and we tried to find a different way.
“Every time we were a bit stuck, one of the players would find a way to get past somebody or play around people. I really enjoyed watching us in the second half.”
Harris was particularly impressed with the role of his trio of substitutes, with Aiden O’Brien, Skalak and Mahlon Romeo having a positive impact on proceedings.
“I thought the three subs were excellent. Aiden [O’Brien] came on and showed what he’s all about – he’s different to our other strikers, getting cleverly between lines and saw elements of really good play in him. He was maybe a little rusty playing further up the park – but that comes with game time.
“Jiri [Skalak] came on well – we’ll have to see whether it was his goal or hit Coops [Jake Cooper] on the way through. It would be great for Jiri to get off the mark.
“Mahlon [Romeo] was excellent at right-back when he came on. I never considered him from the start today because of the travelling he has had on international duty.”
The manager finally touches on the hamstring problem which forced Tom Elliott off in the first half, as well as giving his reasoning behind Steve Morison’s absence from the 18-man squad.
“Steve Morison and Tom Elliott both have tight hamstrings. Steve was touch-and-go, and has an outside chance for Wednesday, although only picked up the injury in training last week.
“Realistically, it looks like we’re going to have no target man for the game – it appears it will be a period of time with Tom, and we will be limited with our attacking options.”