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Harris lauds character of Lions after first away win

The boss reflects on starting the New Year with three points on the road

1 January 2019

Neil Harris has commended the character shown by his team to come from behind and open 2019 by securing a first away win of the season at Ipswich Town.

Second-half strikes from Shane Ferguson (pen), Jake Cooper and Tom Elliott gained a third straight victory for The Lions, who rise to 19th in the Sky Bet Championship after the 3-2 success at Portman Road.

"It is a relief - it gets the monkey off the back," Harris states.

"I'll choose my words carefully, because in the last two games we've been outstanding to pick up six points, but the first half here wasn't acceptable. We came here with a freedom and a belief that the last two games had given us. And for whatever reason - perhaps similar players playing again - we never got going [in the first half]. We were poor and lacked a little bit of bravery to get on the ball and make an extra pass. When we did do that, we looked like a good side and caused problems high up the pitch.

"Then, the boys found a way. Half-time was an opportunity to spur them on a bit, but we also changed shape and that enabled us to press higher. Bringing Moro [Steve Morison] on certainly gave the boys the belief and knowledge on the pitch, and it was a big second-half performance. Certainly not our best, but to get the job done, the boys followed the script perfectly.

"It's testament to the group I've got that we've picked up three wins when we've been questioned. Emotions are a bit surreal, if I'm honest - whilst I'm disappointed with the first half, I'm delighted with the three points and the nine we've gained in this period."

The manager claims that whilst there is still plenty of progress to be made on the pitch, he is proud of his squad for their physical and mental response over the festive period to claim the three victories.

"I've told the group that at this level, if you don't have eight, nine, 10, even 11 players at it, you get found out. We still have a way to go as a group, and we need to add personnel over the next few weeks. Of course, the players that were missing today were also a big loss.

"I decided as a manager to put myself and the players under pressure over Christmas as it's a massive period for us, and I'm glad I did. The players have responded, and shown the character and the legs.

"We have to look onwards and upwards. We still have to be wary of those behind us, but we're now back in points-per-game credit again, and that's really important for us. We'll enjoy the FA Cup on Sunday, but we're already looking at our upcoming League games."

The boss was without top scorer Lee Gregory and vice-captain Shaun Hutchinson for the match, and has explained the reasoning behind their absences.

"Gregs has a calf strain and will be out for around four weeks, which is a real blow for us. Hutch has had a freak incident at home, and suffered a nasty cut - so we will have to monitor him ahead of the weekend."

Harris finally gives an update on the freshly-opened transfer window, and confirms Millwall will be recalling the club's loan players following the turn of the year.

"As we talk, we're not hugely close [to any signings] - we have targets, of course. The loan players will be coming back, at least in the short-term, as I want them back into the group."

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