‘Big players stepped up’ – Millwall boss Harris on results elsewhere dictating safety total

Neil Harris felt his senior players delivered the goods in Millwall’s 3-1 win over Cardiff City this afternoon.

Michael Obafemi bagged his first goal at The Den since his January loan move from Burnley – and second in total in a Lions shirt – before Yakou Meite restored parity.

But Jake Cooper volleyed home at the back post just before referee Will Finnie whistled for the break.

Duncan Watmore added a late third in stoppage time from Brooke Norton-Cuffy’s cross from the right wing.

Asked about Cooper ending a 60-game wait for a goal, head coach Harris said: “It has been long overdue, hasn’t it? Even in my tenure Coops has had some bloody good chances and should’ve had two or three goals.

“I might not have said his first goal would be a left-foot volley at the back post – I’d expect it to be a towering header from a corner. But it was much-needed. Sometimes you need your team captain and big players to step up – Jake Cooper did and then Duncan Watmore did.”

There would need to be a huge swing in fortunes for Millwall to now be hauled back into the relegation battle.

They are six points clear with only nine left available before the campaign ends in early May.

“It’s important for the football club to stay at this level,” said Harris, who returned to the South London outfit in February. “What you have got to remember is that we are in the first year of a new owner’s tenure.

“Yes, Jimmy is part of the Berylson family and he has been part of this football club since about 2007. He knows the club and about the staff and players – but it is Jimmy’s first year (at the helm after his father John was killed in a car crash).

“The target when I took over was to stay in the division – 50 points was the immediate thought process in my mind. But 50 won’t dictate the total, it will be results elsewhere which dictate the total.

“We have to keep pushing forward and making sure we are diligent going to Sunderland next week – respectful of them but be ourselves and play with maybe a little more freedom and arrogance.

“Seventeen points from 10 games is a monumental return. Especially for a team that was struggling for form. I can only praise my players for responding.

“To start so well was the demand from Tuesday. To score early was important – to put Cardiff on the back foot. But we didn’t quite follow it up after that. We kind of took a backward step. I knew what the results were elsewhere – because I can always tell in the stadium here.

“We became a little bit edgy and conceded a poor goal, by our standards, from a set-play. As much as Cardiff are the best in the division at doing it, it’s still disappointing to concede in that manner.

“But to score on the stroke of half-time was really important for us, in the changing room. I just said to the boys: ‘It’s there for us – we have just got to handle the ball a little bit better and opportunities will arise for us’.

“The only disappointment is that we didn’t get a third or fourth a lot quicker.”

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