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Harris: "Our support was top-drawer, and we need to stick together"

Lions boss analyses today's match at West Brom and praises the backing of a sold-out away end at The Hawthorns

22 September 2018

Millwall manager Neil Harris says there are several positives to take from this afternoon's defeat to West Bromwich Albion, and emphasises the importance of unity as a busy schedule continues this week.

The manager spoke after a display which saw large encouraging spells at The Hawthorns, before second-half strikes from Dwight Gayle and Kieran Gibbs gave Darren Moore's Baggies the three points.

"First of all I'm disappointed with the result, but proud of the performance," Harris claims.

"I said to the players that when we're so good like we were at times in the first half, we have to be clinical - we had three good chances to score.

"At the other end, when things aren't going for you, it really kicks you when you're down. There was a terrific save from Ben [Amos] from a point-blank header, then the ball clips the underside of the bar as we're about to head it clear, and lands at Dwight Gayle's foot. You can't do anything about those moments. The second goal goes through Mahlon Romeo's legs - if it hits his shinpad it goes wide."

Harris commends the belief among the squad, something which will benefit in the long run for the club.

"I'm pleased with the players. The first half at QPR wasn't good enough, and you can point to not scoring goals and that we've had some poor halves of football. But today, we had some good performances from individuals, there was a real positive in the character and belief of the team.

"Once we get that first bit of luck or performance that gets us the win, then there's plenty more to come.

"I thought our shape was excellent. And if anyone questioned the belief of the Millwall team we've grown to love over the past three-and-a-half years, the first hour today showed that it's all there."

The boss has touched on the four changes he made, as well as lauding the leadership of the returning Byron Webster.

"Players like Byron Webster - who hasn't played a [League] match for us for 12 months, played really well today. I saw some real leadership on the pitch in the group, and some really good football as well. We just need to be that bit more clinical in the final third.

"[The four changes] were due to playing three games in seven days; four in 10 days, and so on. It has to be taken into consideration when players are under the weather, and just for freshness really.

"We were in a game today where we knew we needed energy and freshness."

Jiri Skalak and Tom Bradshaw both started in the West Midlands, with Harris highlighting the importance of the pair to the team going forward.

"Playing well both with and without the ball is important, and I thought Jiri Skalak and Tom Bradshaw both did really well. Jiri is a crosser of the ball, and although there was a touch of rustiness against a good West Brom side, we also saw some real moments of quality from both wide players today."

With two matches a week continuing until the international break, the manager says it is key that The Lions build momentum.

"I made it clear to the players that we need to focus only on the next game rather than looking too far ahead. We have three home games in four now. It's about building momentum in those matches, on the back of four good performances at The Den.

"Win, lose or draw on Tuesday, I'm looking for a good Millwall performance to take into next Saturday, when the priority becomes the result against Sheffield United."

The boss praises Albion's goalscoring ability and strength in Moore's squad.

"West Brom could score 600 goals this season!

"They're a team with some great individual players, and I think Darren [Moore] has done really well to keep hold of some of them, as well as bringing in players like Dwight Gayle and Harvey Barnes.

"When games are tight, you need goalscorers and individual ability to have a chance of promotion - I would certainly put West Brom in that category."

Harris has given updates of the injured duo of Shaun Hutchinson and Ryan Tunnicliffe, who again missed the clash.

"Shaun Hutchinson will still be a few weeks, and Ryan Tunnicliffe had played with a broken toe, but it was getting to the stage where he was unable to train.

"Toe injuries tend to heal quickly, so we hope to get [Tunnicliffe] back on the training pitch this week."

Finally, the manager hugely lauds the support of a sold-out away end at The Hawthorns, describing their backing as 'outstanding'.

"We're in a horrible run of games, the worst run while I've been in charge, and the supporters were absolutely top-drawer towards myself and the players.

"I never take it for granted. I thought the fans drove the team on, and I appreciated at the end when nearly every one of them stayed to appreciate a good performance.

"I hope they see enough in the group, the board, players and staff that we've had a great three-and-a-half years, and that we need to stick together. I thought their backing was outstanding." 

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