MILLLWALL manager Neil Harris felt Sid Nelson’s performance against Walsall last Saturday typified the courage of his side.
Harris handed Nelson his first start since he made the mistake that gave Walsall their winning goal at The Den in December and the Lions boss was rewarded with a typically committed display from the centre-back.
Nelson, 20, made numerous blocks in the box against the Saddlers, and his bravery resulted in a bloody nose in the first half that required him to leave the pitch to receive attention from club physio Bobby Bacic.
Nelson also stood firm after the break when Walsall sought to fight their way back into the contest.
“I think Walsall create chances in every game they play,” Harris said. “They’ve got some really good, attacking players and they’re clever in the way they play. They got into some good areas in both halves. They caused us problems in the first half and we had to defend the area really well.
“And in the second half young Sid Nelson made two vital blocks , I think one hit him in the face (above). It was 2-0 at the time and that’s courage and that’s desire. It’s a strong mentality to keep a clean sheet. I was really pleased with our defensive display and coupled with the goals we scored it was a good day for us.”
Nelson should keep his place at Rochdale next Saturday with Mark Beevers suspended. Millwall defeated Keith Hill’s side 3-1 in September, and another win will keep the pressure on the sides above them in the race for the automatic promotion places.
“We’re certainly not thinking that far ahead, but what we can say is we’re capable of competing with the best sides in the league,” Harris said.
“We’ve shown on a number of occasions that on our day we’re a top side at this level. We can certainly focus on trying to consolidate where we are in the play-off positions but also maybe start looking at the teams that are just above us.
“I’ve got a good group of players. If we saw anything (on Saturday) we saw a really honest Millwall performance added to some quality in the second half.
“But the players don’t get carried away. They’re professionals and they work hard every single day. They give me everything they’ve got. Win, lose or draw they give me everything.”
Harris did admit that Millwall’s victory over second-placed Walsall would make other sides sit up and take notice of their current form.
“It had been pointed out to me we hadn’t beaten a top-six side this season so that’s an important win for us,” he said. “Does it send a message to the rest of the league? It should do. Our results of late should send that message.
“We know we’re a good team but we also know, and I make it very clear to the players, you’re only a good team if you’ve got a strong bond and a real work ethic. When you play for our football club you have to have that desire and that hunger and your quality will shine through in the end.
“What’s important is we’ve had good results away all season. Even the games we’ve lost we’ve lost narrowly by a goal and probably been the better team in those games.
“It’s important that we keep doing what we’re doing on the road but really find a way to impose ourselves in home fixtures. The belief that the fanbase have in us away from home, it’s important they have that when they come to the home games.”