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Elliott: “We’ve shown our character and fight”

Saturday’s winning goalscorer discusses Villa, harmony in the squad and the international break

8 October 2018

Tom Elliott has commended the determination of the team after coming from behind to claim a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon.

Elliott got off the mark in this season’s Sky Bet Championship with the winning goal for The Lions in the second half, and he credits the way the team ‘dug in’.

“We needed to get the three points, we dug in and we got them,” the towering striker says.

“We’ve needed that win since the start of the season, as we’ve been in winning positions and not been able to see them out, but the boys knew it was an important game today leading into the international break.

“Even on Wednesday we did well to come back, and then did well to come back against Villa. We had to be ruthless and see out the game.”

Elliott claims that Villa’s own situations following the departure of former boss Steve Bruce and with their two primary centre-halves ruled out there was potentially something to exploit, and lauds the way the team came out on top against players with top-level experience.

“The dressing room has been great all season – we’ve always stuck together – and we showed what we could do on the pitch. We’ll go into the next game firing even more.

“We knew Villa had their own problems and had changed manager, so we knew it was the best time for ourselves – especially as we had a point to prove, that no-one wants to come to The Den, because we’re always at it. They had a makeshift defence, but two of them have played in the Premier League anyway. We knew it would be a good battle and while that may have helped us, we still had to go out there and get the job done.

“We showed our character, our fight and won the game. They have a lot of strength in players who have played in the Premier League like [Jack] Grealish and [Ahmed] Elmohamady. But we showed our quality today – people sometimes forget the quality we have.”

Elliott especially commends strike partner Lee Gregory, who was voted man-of-the-match against Villa with a tireless display, on the back of scoring a dramatic last-minute equaliser against Forest in the week.

“Gregs [Gregory] was my man-of-the-match today. He always puts in at least a 7/10 performance every week, and he can play as any type of striker, as well as being a great character off the pitch.”

The forward does however maintain his stance on the dubious goal scored between the two against Fulham, one which teammate Gregory also firmly claims.

“I’m claiming [the Fulham goal] as mine at the moment! I didn’t see a touch or see the ball change direction, so for now I’m calling that my first goal of the season, and Villa my second.

“My scoring ratio when I’ve started for Millwall hasn’t been too bad. I always want to score goals, and I’m just happy to help the team – I wouldn’t be a striker otherwise.”

Elliott says that manager Neil Harris has worked excellently to build a team with great harmony and work ethic, claiming that was a key part of him joining the club in 2017.

“We’ve got a good team morale – everyone has welcomed me to this club since I’ve arrived, and that’s one of the biggest things for me. I came from a team like AFC Wimbledon where we had that morale, and when I came here I saw the togetherness of the squad which was great to see.

“The gaffer’s brilliant. No matter the result, he’ll tell us what needs to be told. He’ll get anything he needs to off his chest but then he’ll come into training very bubbly on a Monday and get us going again.

“He has brought players into the club who work hard, who are down-to-earth, and who will work together. The manager has put a great team together here.”

The 27-year-old has expressed his delight at the starting berth given to him by Harris, stating it has given him a ‘rhythm’.

“I’ve been waiting for my chance and just wanted to get out there and do well. Playing again at the weekend straight after Wednesday night was good for me as I could build from Wednesday and get into a bit of a rhythm.

“It helped me gain more match fitness. When you come off the bench, it can be straight into a 100mph game. When you play from the start, it’s usually different.

“Starting the last two games has also given me a lot of confidence and belief, especially scoring my goal on Saturday. The manager said he was really happy for me when I came off, and happy for the team.”

Elliott finally pays tribute to the supporters who have followed The Lions at The Den and across the country so far this season – declaring that they ‘led’ the team to an impressive eighth-place finish last year which the side now look to build on – as well as touching on the benefits and drawbacks of the upcoming international break.

“The fans have been brilliant, travelling home and away to support us. We finished eighth last year because they led and supported us. We’ll now be looking to get up the table this season and we’ll see what happens.

“The international break is a bit hit-and-miss for us. It comes at the wrong time in the sense that we’re starting to hit form; at the same time, we’ve had a hectic schedule of games every three or four days, so I think it lets the boys who aren’t away recover a bit more and be properly prepared to face Reading.

“The gaffer won’t let anything slip during the break. He’ll have us building on these two recent games, and we as a team won’t let our standards slip either.”

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