Neil Harris quick to praise fans’ support as Millwall start his reign with 2-1 win at Southampton

Neil Harris made a point of thanking the Millwall support after he kicked off his return as head coach with a 2-1 victory at Southampton.

It was a dream start for the Lions head coach, appointed on Wednesday, as the club won at the South Coast club for the first time in a league match since 1989.

Japhet Tanganga headed the visitors into the lead after five minutes, beating keeper Gavin Bazunu to George Saville’s free-kick – his header looping into the net.

Southampton levelled on 34 minutes through Che Adams, the striker headed in from Stuart Armstrong’s cross after ghosting between Jake Cooper and Danny McNamara.

Millwall went back in front in the 44th minute from the penalty spot. Michael Obafemi’s shot was handled inside the box and Zian Flemming stepped up to send Bazunu the wrong way for his seventh goal of the campaign.

Harris joked: “We battered them, didn’t we? On a serious note, firstly I want to place on record my thank you to the fanbase.

“Not just for my welcome that they gave me on the touchline, but to support my players like that – that’s what we need between now and the end of the season.

“They need that performance and that result, of course they do. In unison it is a brilliant result for our football club. I can’t praise my players highly enough for that level of discipline and structure.”

Southampton had 80 per cent possession but struggled to find a way through, particularly in the second period.

They had 43 touches inside their opponents’ box compared to nine for the Lions, who remained resolute

“Southampton are a really good side and we looked at a gameplan as to how we could try and impose ourselves on the game and cause problems – we quickly realised it was going to be a tough afternoon for us.

“You have to find a way. Millwall teams have to find a way. I’ve always had to find a way in teams I’ve played in and sometimes you rely on your shape, organisation and your spirit and togetherness. Some of the performances today were probably the performances of the season for individuals.

“When you need a moment you have got Zian Flemming’s quality and calmness to take a spot kick on the stroke of half time but then Matty Sarkic as well. I’m here to give players’ confidence, belief and support – that save (second half to deny Adam Armstrong) will do him the world of good.”

Tottenham loanee Tanganga scored the first senior goal of his career.

Harris switched to a back four at St Mary’s Stadium – playing a 4-4-2 formation which had Flemming slightly deeper than Obafemi.

It was a brave header by Tanganga, who needed treatment after receiving a clump from Bazunu.

“If he wants to be a centre-half then he is going to need to do that at both ends of the pitch,” said Harris. “We defended our box superbly today. Japhet was outstanding. Him and Jake (Cooper). I can’t praise too many individuals because you go through the whole team – you’re talking about playing against one of the best possession-based teams in the league.

“We had to find a way to defend. Everyone put their bodies on the line and blocked shots. Having said that, I don’t remember too many clearcut opportunities against us because we defended our box so well.

“I’d like to see us slightly better on the ball in transition at times. But I’m certainly not going to bemoan my players today of anything.”



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