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Harris: “We rallied, but goals change games”

Lions boss reflects on Carabao Cup defeat to Fulham

25 September 2018

Millwall manager Neil Harris says Fulham showed their ‘Premier League class’ tonight as Slavisa Jokanovic’s side won 3-1 at The Den to enter the hat for the Carabao Cup Fourth Round.

Tom Elliott’s first goal of the season appeared to rally The Lions on the hour mark, with Cyrus Christie’s wonder-strike sealing the game against the run of play for Fulham after taking an earlier 2-0 lead.

“Goals change games. Fulham showed their class and the better team won tonight,” Harris says.

“I thought they showed quality in the first half with their movement and execution of passes, yes – we could have done better with the first goal – but there was quality in the pass and finish.”

Harris highlights moments of quality shown by his team during the match, but that Fulham exploited shades of uncertainty at times.

“I thought with the moments we had in the first half to try and exploit them – crosses and set-pieces – we weren’t quite good enough in the final third.”

“We stood strong, getting to half-time at 1-0, and we adjusted the shape to a back five. We wanted to have a look at that as it was something we haven’t done too often. I thought that gave us a foothold in the game and enabled us to press the ball higher up the pitch, play more man-for-man, and we looked like we were getting to grips with it before we gave a poor second goal away.

“Whatever shape you play, what doesn’t change are the fundamentals of defending and attacking. Then we rallied, scored our goal – there was a debate on who scored it on whether it was Tom Elliott or Lee Gregory – but then that got the ascendancy with us. It got the crowd going, we had a 10-minute spell where we put them under pressure, and I thought that was a lot more like us.”

The boss says the second half performance was at times very pleasing, but that teams will be punished against top-flight outfits.

“As I said, big moments change games and their third goal was a great one for them. Just when it looked like we were building momentum, and we could have given it a right go in the last 15 minutes with a one-goal deficit, the goal just changed it.

“I said to the boys that regardless of the fact it was a great goal, against Premier League players we have to do more to stop the shot in the first place. At the moment, the question to the players is whether we’re making our own luck.

“What I did say is that I’m really pleased with the second half performance, it was a good reaction to the first half when we were dominated.”

Whilst claiming the club are in a ‘difficult spell’ with recent form, the boss has made clear his focus on the Sky Bet Championship when Sheffield United visit The Den.

“I was trying to be careful with my words [about competition priorities]. There was an importance to the game, we don’t want to be getting beaten at The Den. But I think it showed in the gate here tonight that this competition wasn’t necessarily our top priority.

“What was important was looking at player combinations, getting minutes and confidence under some of their belts, and to some element we did that. There were positives to tonight, but our priority is Saturday against Sheffield United.

“We’re in a bit of a difficult spell at the moment which we’ve not had too many of, and now it’s about the players’ reaction to the first 70 minutes at West Brom, the second half at QPR and some of our games here where at times we have been outstanding.”

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