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Harris: “We need to play like a home side away from home”

Manager discusses preparation for Norwich visit

9 November 2018

Neil Harris says Millwall must learn from last week and take the positives from an impressive October if they are to take a good result home from Norwich City on Saturday.

The Lions boss was this week nominated for the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month award for October, as the team picked up 10 points from a possible 15, before opening November with last week’s defeat at Griffin Park.

Harris says the mentality in the camp has progressed well, but that there must be a consistency from the squad in October’s displays.

“Yes, [there was an improvement in October],” the manager says with a smile.

“I don’t expect to win it – I think there are a couple of other managers out there who have had a better record than me, including one we’re facing at the weekend.

“It’s nice to have recognition for what we achieved in October because we were very good, and our best performance of the month was probably at Reading – a game we were beaten in. There were plenty of positives.”

The manager says the reflection on last week has helped the team prepare for the game, with Daniel Farke’s Canaries sitting second in the League table.

“I had a chuckle just then because after our mentality and performances [in October], we let ourselves down at Brentford. We weren’t up to scratch, albeit with Brentford very good on the day. We have to learn last weekend, and take factors from the games we were really good in into Saturday at Norwich.

“[The preparation] has been great. The guys as ever are great to work with, and they want to learn and be better. They’ve been disappointed from last time out and I’ve been very honest with my quotes, there were a few harsh words spoken afterwards. There was no blame culture, but we want to be better. I want to be better myself, and the players want to be better.

“We want to be a successful team. And we have to learn and take things on the chin. The group have come in all week and been outstanding.”

Harris explains how The Lions can improve this weekend, with a ‘clean-sheet mentality’ required on their travels.

“Are we just going to go and put a top performance in against the team who are second in the League? There are no guarantees, but I’d like to think we’ll be better than we were at Brentford. What I want to see as we go into another two-week break is a top Millwall performance.

“Our box-to-box shape without the ball has to be outstanding against a good footballing shape. We have to have a clean-sheet mentality, which must be better on the road than it has been. It’s a demand of mine to my group that it has to change.

“We have to be better with the ball, which is the biggest thing we have to learn from last week. We didn’t make good enough or composed enough decisions, and we were wasteful. We have to be better in key areas going forward, and we will be.”

With 14 of Millwall’s 16 points coming at The Den so far this campaign, Harris details how The Lions' form on the road must be improved.

“Regular performances will get us regular wins. All that not winning away games does is puts pressure on your home games, and we know we’re excellent at home, but we want to be consistent both home and away.

“We want to be a Millwall side which plays well at The Den but also plays like a home side away from home, if that makes sense.

“We need to be disciplined like we are at home, and impose ourselves on the game. The biggest thing I can say is that I can’t wait for Saturday, and I want to see a reaction from the players, and from myself and the staff. The challenge is to put into fruition what we’ve done on the training pitch this week.”

The boss claims that opponents Norwich have found a ‘backbone’ of late, which has enabled them to see out games with the required discipline.

“Norwich are a good side, technically very good with a lot of foreign players. They’ve not always steamrolled teams when they’ve won games, but they’ve found a way with the ball to hurt teams.

“Compared to the start of the season, they’ve found a bit more of a backbone in the team to keep the ball out of the net. It’s about as tough an away game as we could have at the moment after facing the side with the best home record in the League last week, but as Millwall manager, the bigger the challenge, the better.

“They wouldn’t be where they are in the table if they weren’t a good side, but we also know we’re capable of going and putting in a performance, and getting a result. As I said, I can’t wait – and my players will be ready for it.”

Harris finally gives an update on team news for the game, stating he has plenty of decisions to make regarding team selection, with a positive fitness report ahead of the weekend.

“Jed [Wallace] got half an hour last week and has trained all week, we had a few knocks and niggles from the Brentford game but other than that, we’re ready to go and the players have trained well this week.

“There is definitely food for thought in team selection going into the game, but we had a good run of performances before Brentford, and you do want to reward players for good performances, all while thinking about the direct opponent you’re playing against, and how we combat their strengths. You also want to give players an opportunity to impress.”

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