NEIL Harris admitted Millwall ruined their chances of getting to Wembley with their performance in the first leg of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy area final three weeks ago.
The Lions won the second leg at the Kassam Stadium through Lee Gregory’s 16th goal of the season but they couldn’t force a second to take the tie to penalties.
Mark Beevers was also sent off but Harris said he was “proud” of the efforts of his players.
“We lost the game in the first leg when we gave two poor goals away and had nine clearcut goalscoring opportunities,” Harris said.
“I’m proud of my plyers, delighted to win the game but it’s a shame we didn’t quite have enough go in us.
“It’s a travesty we didn’t get anything out of the first leg, we could have made it very easy for ourselves coming here.
“You looked at the boys and thought ‘galvanise yourselves’. We had nothing to lose (after Beevers' red card), two wingers playing at full-back, three centre-forwards on the pitch and two attacking midfielders. We had a right go.
“We were just hoping we’d get something from a long throw or a free-kick into the box, or that something would fall for us.
“But it wasn’t to be. The players gave it everything and the pleasing thing for me was the belief in the squad, the belief from the fanbase. The chairman flew over from America because he thought we could win the tie.
“While we’re doing that as a club we’re moving in the right direction.”
Harris stressed he wants his players to take the feeling of missing out on a Wembley appearance and use it as motivation for the rest of the league season, starting with Walsall on Saturday.
The Millwall boss said: “The players are disappointed and it’s important we take in the celebrations that Oxford have had and learn from that experience because we’ve got another opportunity this season to get to Wembley.
“This was an opportunity to play on the best stage in English football, for silverware and a fantastic day out to represent this club at Wembley.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to do it, it’s a great occasion. But I’ve said to them to be proud of themselves tonight and not be despondent.
“There’s a good game for us to look forward to on Saturday and I’ve been looking forward to it since Boxing Day. That’s 10 away wins this season. That’s some achievement and we move on.”