NEIL Harris was pleased with his side’s determination and spirit in their 3-0 win over Walsall at the Bescot Stadium on Saturday.
The Lions looked like they were going to be in for a difficult afternoon when debutant Mahlon Romeo, part of a depleted defence, was booked in the 14th minute for a foul on Saddlers winger Rico Henry.
Walsall had more possession in the first half, but Sid Nelson (above) and centre-back partner Byron Webster headed away and cleared a number of dangerous deliveries into the box.
In wet and windy conditions Jordan Archer’s kick-outs were barely reaching the halfway line in the opening 45 minutes, but Millwall still carved out goalscoring opportunities, Lee Gregory and Ed Upson seeing efforts saved by Walsall goalkeeper Liam Roberts.
The stopper also denied Romeo at his near post as Harris’ side sensed there were vulnerable areas in Walsall's defence.
The Saddlers could have taken the lead a minute before half-time when Anthony Forde’s shot from outside the box beat Archer but bounced away off the top of the crossbar.
Harris admitted Walsall were marginally the better side in the first half, but a tactical tweak at the break was the platform for a dominant second-half display in which Nelson and Webster typified their determination to keep a clean sheet.
“It was very difficult for both goalkeepers. You just ask players, especially senior players, to adjust,” Harris said. “The first half was difficult. Even though we had chances I thought Walsall were slightly in the ascendancy.
“It’s just about staying in the game sometimes and digging deep. We said at half-time that we’d done a lot of dirty work, some players had worked extremely hard. We felt if we could do the same in the second half – and we tinkered with the shape slightly – and use the ball a bit better we’d get chances.
“I was really pleased that my players showed their desire, their hunger and certainly their quality to put that plan into action.”
The result at the Bescot kept Millwall in sixth place in the League One table and was both the ideal response to going out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy last week and to the 1-0 defeat Walsall inflicted on Millwall at The Den on December 26.
“I think it shows the spirit of the team and the togetherness of the squad,” Harris said. “Tuesday was a fine result for us. We didn’t quite get the job done that we had demanded but we went to a top Oxford side and won the game. That kept our momentum going and kept the belief in the group.
“I said straight after that game there would be no disappointment. I’d been looking forward to this (Walsall) game since Boxing Day. I knew we were capable of putting in a performance and getting that result because, against a very good possession-based football side, it certainly suited us.”