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Harris reflects on defeat in Hull

Manager speaks in detail after final match of demanding February

26 February 2019

Neil Harris has expressed his frustration after two first-half goals from Hull City consigned Millwall to successive defeats in the Sky Bet Championship, as The Lions were beaten 2-1 at the KCOM Stadium.

All three goals including Shaun Hutchinson's first of the season arrived in the first half, and Harris has reflected on a game from which he sees plenty of room for improvement.

"The frustration is that the two goals we gave away here took us back to three months ago when the ball would come into the box and find its way into the back of the net," the manager says.

"The boy has the shot, Jordan's about to routinely save it, and it hits the player in front of him and goes into the net.

"That set us back, but then the initial response - to the goal and losing Murray Wallace - was excellent by the players. We got ourselves back on level terms and we were completely controlling the game, but the frustration again is how we conceded the second goal. We don't win the first header, we were too deep and lose the second ball - it then comes into the box and our decision making is poor."

Harris notably speaks of Marc Pugh's eventual winning goal as the crucial moment going in at half-time, and claims that there were opportunities The Lions should have taken in the second 45 minutes to grab something from the contest.

"We found ourselves a goal down rather than in the ascendancy like we should have been at half-time, but I said to the players at the break that in the second half, I wanted them to play the Millwall way.

"I wanted a mix of playing direct and winning the second balls, along with passing the ball really well - and we had that at times. I was really pleased with some of our individual performances, but where it didn't go for us tonight was in our anticipation in and around their penalty area.

"We needed the moments we had to have gone in, and for people to step up and take those opportunities when they come."

The boss states it is crucial his team do not "slip back" into previous habits from before the turn of the year following five goals conceded in two League matches.

"The half-time break was of course made easier for their team, manager and supporters, but we came out for the second half and dominated the majority of it, sticking to our guns.

"We left ourselves a little open on the counter-attack at times, but when you're chasing the game, that's going to happen. We have to make sure we get back our clean sheet mentality, as conceding five in two games is unacceptable. We must be better at the back, and our anticipation in the final third needs to keep improving.

"There are positives, but I'm not going to stand here and say the boys were outstanding because we lost 3-1 at The Den on Saturday from the first half an hour, and we had a presentation in training because giving poor goals away won't be tolerated while I'm in charge. We've proven over the last two months that we're much better than that, and I won't have us slipping back to having long poor spells in games."

Harris further gives an update on the fitness of absentee Mahlon Romeo, as well as Murray Wallace - who had been forced off following the opening goal - forcing Ryan Leonard and Shane Ferguson into full-back roles.

"Mahlon was ill and couldn't travel with the group. Murray is in a leg brace at the moment, and first thoughts are that it doesn't look too great, so we hope for positive news on that.

"Lenny has played at right-back before, when I played with him at Southend, so he's very capable there and has understanding of the position. It's not easy against one of the best players in the League in Grosicki, but he read the game, used his pace and served the ball really well.

"Losing Murray meant Fergie had to slot in at left-back, where he has played international football before, but it's not his primary position. The attitude of the boys to fill in is outstanding. We will be looking at Conor [McLaughlin] and Mezza [James Meredith] moving forward, but today came too soon for them to be considered."

The manager now looks ahead to Saturday's encounter at The Den with League leaders Norwich City, highlighting his excitement to take on Daniel Farke's Canaries.

"I can't wait for Saturday. What everyone expects on Saturday at The Den is to see a Millwall performance - not the first half-hour debacle we saw against Preston. We're playing the top side in the division, so we know how tough it will be, but we have to be patient and then hurt them like we did at Carrow Road, where we should have won the game.

"It's a great one, though, as the stadium atmosphere will be fantastic - Norwich will sell their allocation and get behind their team - and our fans will come wanting to cause an upset and see their team perform."

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