Neil Harris has lauded the determination of his Millwall team after clawing back from behind to take all three points against Wigan Athletic on Tuesday night.
A freak own-goal from man-of-the-match Jed Wallace opened the scoring for Paul Cook’s Latics despite The Lions showing large dominant spells, before Shaun Williams tucked home a penalty to level the game – moments after Josh Windass had blazed over from the spot at the other end.
Steve Morison’s first goal of the season off the bench secured the points for Harris’ men late on, capping a solid display under the lights at The Den.
“I thought we dominated the first half – there weren’t necessarily many chances, but there were a lot of half-chances, balls into the box and a lot of really good play to get us into the final third,” the manager says.
“There were three or four occasions when we were an inch away from making those count, and I said to the boys at half-time not to be nearly-men. I said, ‘make sure you’re the one who puts the ball into the back of the net.’”
Harris describes the Wigan opener as ‘summing up’ much of The Lions’ fate so far this campaign, but says he feels he made a positive change in bringing on Aiden O’Brien for the second period.
“If ever there was a moment to sum up our season so far, it was their goal on the stroke of half-time. The ricochet took it into the back of the net, and you’re thinking someone upstairs doesn’t like us.
“We made a brave call at half-time. I just wanted to do something positive, so we moved Fergie [Shane Ferguson] to left-back and brought Aiden [O’Brien] on, who grew into the game and was outstanding. We wanted to ignite the fans and get that belief going in the group to win the game in the second half. It’s clear to see we were outstanding after the break.”
The boss commends the class of two of his senior performers, who showed ‘great class’ to take the responsibility of grabbing the crucial goals.
“Did the game hinge on two penalties? Of course it did – if they score the second goal, they probably go on to win the game. It’s tough to come from two down at this level. But it didn’t, and Shaun Williams showed great class and character to put it in the top corner.
“Then, when you need your captain and leader, Moro [Steve Morison] came up with the winner – we’re really pleased for him. I was delighted we didn’t sit on the 1-1 scoreline, and went on to win the game. The boys had that character and belief.
Harris opens up on an intriguing half-time atmosphere in the dressing room, describing an excitement amongst the players and staff to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
“I left the boys to it in the dressing room for a few minutes. It was quite quiet in there, but it was strange because I was more excited at half-time than I’ve ever been in this job.
“Shaun Williams spoke brilliantly to the group at the break, and showed leadership qualities that I’d maybe not seen in him before. I saw the belief – I saw the faces of players who really wanted it, and characteristics of a proper Millwall team.”
The manager finally highlights the number of opportunities created by his side in recent weeks, and pinpoints Saturday’s encounter with Ipswich Town at The Den as a huge game to work towards.
“Leading into tonight, we’d made 48 chances in the last three games. That doesn’t just come from centre-forwards and wide players – that stems from the whole team.
“Those who have seen the last four games will have seen proper Millwall performances, as good as I’ve seen for a long time.
“Seven points from four games is a good return at this level, and it could easily have been 12. We have to take this into Saturday against Ipswich.”