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Harris: "That was probably the best performance of the season"

Manager discusses point apiece at the Riverside

19 January 2019

Neil Harris has spoken in glowing terms of his team's display on Saturday afternoon, after coming away from Middlesbrough with a 1-1 draw in a contest Millwall led for over three quarters of the match.

Jed Wallace slotted The Lions into a first-half lead, before Jordan Hugill struck with a late penalty to salvage Tony Pulis' Boro' a point.

The point keeps the team six points above the Sky Bet Championship drop zone, and Harris has described the shift as what could be the 'best' of the campaign so far.

"The performance from the players was outstanding, probably the best of the season," the manager says.

"The levels of performance from the midfielders, the wide players, Lee Gregory with his linkup play, was excellent. To almost get a clean sheet shows how well we marshaled the set-plays, and marshaled the centre-forwards that Middlesbrough have spent a lot of money on.

"Some of our build-up and counter-attack play, and our use of the ball, was as good as I can remember for a long time. We created chances - we should have been out of sight at half-time, and then we had the opportunities to kill the game before conceding."

The boss touches briefly on the decision to award Middlesbrough the crucial spot-kick, from Steve Morison's alleged challenge on Daniel Ayala.

"I've only seen the penalty decision from one angle, but it looks soft.

"Moro would be the first to put his hands up and say that he had pushed him. He hasn't pushed him, only leant into him - there were 100 of those in the game."

The Lions operated with a fresh setup at the Riverside, with Harris opting for a predominant 4-3-3 formation, and Ben Thompson playing 90 minutes in his first Championship start.

"It's a system I've wanted to use for a while. I haven't had Shaun Williams fit and haven't had Ben Thompson in the building, so now I feel it's a system we can use, certainly on the road.

"With Tom Elliott not available, and wanting to save Steve [Morison]'s legs for later in the game, it led us to using that formation.

"I thought we could break on Boro' with Marshy [Ben Marshall] and Jed's ability, and the way the midfield three can use the football I felt we could keep possession and frustrate the home crowd. Everything I expected from the performance was there, but for the decision at the end."

Harris has further lauded the workrate of his squad, explaining the effort they have put in at Calmont Road in preparation for the trip.

"We've been working on [the tactical plan] since Tuesday. Marcelo Bielsa has spoken about his video analysis; I'll speak about how hard my players have worked this week on a gameplan on the training pitch and with our video presentations, individually and collectively.

"We don't just turn up. That's been four training sessions, two video sessions, various team meetings, and the players putting in the hard yards.

"The team were organised, disciplined and full of energy. It's not necessarily a system we can use all the time, but with our personnel today, we executed the gameplan."

The boss finally speaks positively about Millwall's general displays since Christmas, claiming it helps maintain a healthy mindset going into next weekend's Emirates FA Cup tie with Everton, and Rotherham United's subsequent League visit to South London.

"That's 10 points from five games for us - an excellent return. We were disappointed not to be as creative as we could have been against Blackburn, but we were caught with a sucker-punch late on. We could easily have had 15 points, or even 11.

"What I will focus on is the turnaround in the team's fortunes over the course of the last six games, as it bodes well for the coming weeks. We can all look forward to Everton next weekend in what is a huge game, and more importantly we can look forward to the next League game, a real 'Cup Final' at The Den against Rotherham.

"We can look forward to those because of the performances we've been putting in."

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