Chopper is hopeful for change in fortune
EXCLUSIVE BY CONOR O’SULLIVAN
Neil Harris hopes his Millwall side can start getting more luck with refereeing decisions as the Lions prepare to face Sunderland.
Millwall return to league matters tomorrow and travel to the Stadium of Light 19th in the Championship table on 17 points after 16 games with Tim Robinson the man earmarked to take the whistle.
The Lions are seven points clear of the bottom-placed Black Cats, who have won just one league game all season and recently sacked manager Simon Grayson.
Jed Wallace is the most notable absentee for Harris as he serves the first of his three-game suspension following his red card in the Burton defeat before the international break.
“We always look at what referee has been assigned to our upcoming game,” said Harris.
“It can be helpful to know what we can expect in terms of how they will officiate. We made our point to the Football Association regarding the Jed Wallace decision and the appeal but it’s done now and we must move on.
“We won’t let ourselves be pushed around but we can’t second guess the referee. There have been a lot of tight calls that have gone against us but hopefully our luck will turn in that respect in the coming weeks.
“Sunderland’s issues have been well publicised and there’s a lot of speculation over their manager but we can only focus on ourselves. They still have excellent players, some with Premier League experience.
“We can’t let them get into any kind of rhythm that will get the crowd behind them. They’re a big club with a big ground and we need to go try and upset the odds.
“We’re aware they’re in a transitional period but we can’t let Saturday be the day they rally themselves.
“These are the types of games that we worked so hard last year to play in. The standard of the Championship has gone up to such an elite level and you have so many clubs who recently played in the Premier League that it’s a real reward for the players going to grounds like the Stadium of Light that have such a wonderful tradition.”
The Sunderland fixture is the first of three games for the Lions in a week where they will face 20th place Hull at the Den on Tuesday before travelling to Craven Cottage for a London derby against 17th placed Fulham the following Saturday.
The Lions have four points from eight away league fixtures this season.
Harris said: “We’ll have a full group to pick from for the Sunderland game apart from Jed and the long-term injuries of Byron Webster and Shaun Williams. Jed is obviously a big loss for us as he’s been in excellent form this season but I’m confident that the group we have going up to the Stadium of Light can produce a good performance and get us a positive result.
“Every game is a massive challenge at this level. Our next three fixtures are against teams in a similar position to ourselves but our message to the players is to take each game as it comes. We achieved a magnificent result away to Cardiff then suffered a bad defeat against Burton at the Den so you really can’t take anything for granted.
“We’ve put in some very good performances away from home where we should have picked up more points so we need to start turning our good away performances into points.”
Millwall have scored 17 league goals this season with George Saville and Tom Elliott the team’s top scorers on four goals each. But Harris claims that the responsibility cannot solely lie with his strikers and it is merely a matter of the team converting more of its chances.
Harris added: “We need to score more goals. We have created a lot of chances but have not been clinical enough unfortunately. But you can’t just flick a switch and suddenly the goals start pouring in, it requires a lot of work on the training ground and in matches.
“Defensively, we have been very solid which our record for this season shows. But the strikers cannot bear all the brunt for our lack of goals.
We need to take our chances from set pieces, deliveries into the box must be spot on every time and it is up to the midfielders to create as many chances in a game as possible.
But ultimately, the strikers are the ones who share the responsibility of finding the net.
“All the forwards have played very well and made a big contribution to the team. I’m confident the goals will start coming if they keep working hard. Steve (Morison) and Lee (Gregory) have given some magnificent performances but not scored as much as they would have liked. Tom Elliott has done very well when he’s come off the bench and would have played a lot more if hadn’t been injured. But we’re creating chances and the goals will come.”
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