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Harris: “I wanted the clean sheet to build confidence in the back line”

Manager pleased with clean sheet in ‘professional performance’ as Lions defeat Ipswich

27 October 2018

Neil Harris has described Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Ipswich Town at The Den as a ‘professional performance’.

A double for Lee Gregory either side of half-time followed by Ryan Leonard’s first goal in a Millwall shirt saw the points stay in SE16, giving Harris’ side a third straight home win.

“It was a very professional performance – that’s the best way to sum it up,” the manager says.

“In my eyes, whilst it was our worst performance in a while, it was very professional. The clean-sheet mentality was there.

“I wanted the clean sheet. I wanted to build the confidence in the back line and the goalkeeper, and I wanted us to be ruthless in front of goal. Lee Gregory scored two perfect poacher’s goals today inside the six-yard box, which he should be doing with the height, aggression and attacking threat we have. He’s really getting into that now.”

Harris emphasises the importance of playing to the team’s advantages, and the ability to alternate different ways of creating chances.

“Coops [Jake Cooper] had a couple of headers and Hutch [Shaun Hutchinson] should have scored – so should Tom Elliott – all from set-pieces, so it’s an important part of our game.

“You have to play to your strengths and the abilities you’ve got, and we can mix it up.

“We can play, get into good areas and put balls into the box, but then we’re obviously dangerous from set-plays. I’m delighted with the goals we scored, and I’m really pleased for Ryan Leonard to get off the mark, as he’s had a lot of efforts and had a great strike just wide in the first half.”

The boss touches further on Leonard’s strike, a tidy lob which sealed the points – before claiming that he wants goals to come from all areas of the team.

“The goal will certainly give [Leonard] confidence, and will give the team confidence. That’s his first goal, Tunni [Ryan Tunnicliffe] got one at Sheffield Wednesday earlier this season, and Willo [Shaun Williams] is on four goals so far.

“It’s important that the central midfielders are scoring goals – I’ve talked a lot about our shape and how the way we play enables players to run forward. I want to see goals from the wide players as well, obviously Fergie [Shane Ferguson] was involved in the third goal here when he put a good ball into the box.

“It’s important that everyone is chipping in, and we’re not just relying on centre-forwards to score the goals.”

Harris also explains his reasoning behind slotting Shaun Hutchinson back into the heart of The Lions’ defence for the game following his return from injury, with Murray Wallace moving across to left-back in place of James Meredith.

“I put Hutch back in as he was our Player of the Year last season and he’s a real out-and-out solid defender, a good leader and our vice-captain. I felt like I needed him back in the trenches with the boys.

“I thought Murray Wallace has been absolutely outstanding over the last four games. Mezza [James Meredith] had a long summer, being away at the World Cup and as a result has maybe not been at 100% for a long period.

“I saw Murray play at left-back a lot last season for Scunthorpe, and he has fantastic quality on the ball as well as being a great crosser of the ball.

Finally, Jed Wallace was missing from the matchday squad on Saturday after a terrific midweek display against Wigan Athletic – with the manager stating it is down to a calf problem.

“We lost Jed to a calf strain. He’s obviously disappointed, but Jiri [Skalak] came in and was excellent.

“It’s still early-doors on how long Jed will be out for. He could be back next week, it could be a couple of weeks – we’ll see.”

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