Aiden O’Brien says Millwall “battled well” in a heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion at The Den in the Emirates FA Cup, and that Sky Bet Championship survival is the club’s sole priority for the remainder of the season.
O’Brien netted on his 200th Lions appearance to put the side two goals ahead, before Brighton staged a late comeback to eventually win the tie on penalties.
“I thought we battled well and played some good football, and we scored two terrific goals,” the forward says.
“To score two and then concede two so late is disappointing as it’s happened to us several times this season. But everyone was terrific – the boys on the pitch, the subs, the staff, the fans – and it just wasn’t meant to be. Everyone was doing their bit, working hard and covering every blade of grass as everyone saw.
“Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise in some way – we can now solely focus on the League without worrying about the Cup. We have a nitty-gritty survival battle on our hands, and we just have to put all our energy into that.”
The Irishman praised the impact of the top-flight visitors, and claims he cannot fault his teammates or supporters in any way after an emotional rollercoaster at The Den.
“Brighton are a great team. They pass it and go forward well, and they’re a really good technical side who play in the Premier League week-in, week-out.
“They know how to score goals – [Jurgen] Locadia and [Solly] March came on and changed the game for them, giving them something different.
“I can’t fault the boys out there and I can’t fault the fans at all. We’re all proud.”
O’Brien finally says that with League survival becoming the final target for the season, all hands must be on deck to secure vital Championship status for The Lions.
“Every time we’re at The Den now for the rest of the season, we need as many fans as possible to be there to push us on – because as you saw, we almost took a Premier League side to the cleaners and the fans played a massive part in that. We need that to battle to stay in this League.
“We have to dust ourselves down, the Cup is done with now. There are quite a few teams down there, fighting for the same thing we’re fighting for.
“We can’t lose anymore games at The Den now. This has to be a hostile place as our home form will be absolutely vital to us staying in the Championship next season.”