Neil Harris on unbreakable Millwall spirit and the challenge of facing managerless Aston Villa

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Neil Harris has hailed the spirit in Millwall’s camp after they pulled off a dramatic comeback at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday night.

The Lions were trailing 2-0 at the City Ground but a stoppage-time leveller by Lee Gregory saw them bank their first Championship point on the road since August 11.

Next up for Millwall is Aston Villa tomorrow – with Kevin McDonald taking caretaker charge after the Midlands club sacked Steve Bruce.

The Lions were unlucky not to win at Forest with Tom Bradshaw having a goal wiped out for a foul, Gregory hit the bar and a very strong penalty claim for handball.

But Harris said: “My glass is half full at the moment in terms of where we are. It is a point gained. Did we do enough to win more than one game?

Yes. We were 2-0 down against the run of play to two wonderful strikes but I’ll certainly settle for a point.

“There is great spirit and camaraderie to come back and do what we did – I have never been able to fault that. The belief in what we are doing is top drawer.

“It was disappointing after the defeat to Sheffield United on Saturday but we came in Monday and the players picked me up because they were at it.”

Harris made four changes to his starting line-up with Shane Ferguson, one of the switches, crossing for Shaun Williams to head in the equaliser.

Tom Elliott, Jiri Skalak and Murray Wallace were the others to land starts.
“I went with two natural wide players because I thought they would struggle with crosses,” said Harris.

“Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday football is a very gruelling schedule in the modern game. So I had a lot to consider selection wise.

“Murray Wallace was outstanding at centre-half – his best game in a Millwall shirt. Fergie and Skally came in and showed some terrific wide play. And Tom Elliott had arguably his best game for us as well.”

Next up for Millwall is a Villa side who are in the process of hunting for a new manager after the departure of Bruce.

The former Crystal Palace, Birmingham and Hull City chief had a cabbage thrown at him by a disgruntled fan before Tuesday’s 3-3 draw against rock bottom Preston North End.

Millwall have won two of their last three matches against Villa – and were hugely unfortunate not to take maximum points in a 0-0 draw in the Midlands in December 2017.

Williams’ penalty clinched a 1-0 victory over them on the final day of last season in SE16.

“Steve is a really good man,” said Harris. “The few times I have met him at games or after we have played them he has been fantastic company, very wise words and snippets of information.

“He is top drawer to learn from. Playing-wise he had a great career and as a manager he is a legend in terms of what he has achieved so far.

If we ever needed a reality check as managers that our jobs are never really safe and your job is always in question, then you can see that with Steve Bruce.

“But that’s just modern-day society and that’s football – somebody has to blame somebody. It’s a shame. I was looking forward to seeing Steve and Colin [Calderwood, assistant manager] but it is not to be.

“Does it affect the game? Clearly it does because a new guy comes in, albeit on a temporary basis, and we don’t know what he will do selection wise. It’s about us being the best we can be.”

Harris was left fuming that the Lions’ second-half appeals for a spot-kick were waved away.

“If the referee can see it was a definite foul for Tom Bradshaw’s goal – that he was in the best possible position to see that – then he has got to give the handball a couple of minutes earlier and he doesn’t.

“The ref has got it completely wrong and the lack of consistency has me doubting my knowledge of the rules but also the referees.

Shaun Williams got punished for a handball at the weekend that never was a penalty, and not just because it happened outside the box.

“This one is 10 times stronger a claim because the player’s arm is above his head – my knowledge of handball is that the arm has to be in an unnatural position. And there isn’t much more of a unnatural position than having it above your head.”

IMAGES BY BRIAN TONKS


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