Harris: Millwall need to bring a good result to 'hostile' Den

© Millwall FC
© Millwall FC

NEIL Harris wants his players to make sure the second leg of their play-off semi-final against Bradford at The Den next Friday is played in a "great atmosphere" by getting a positive result at Valley Parade this weekend.

The Lions face a Bradford side on a seven-game winning streak at home including their 1-0 win over Millwall in March.

But Millwall won their last four fixtures of the regular league season and Harris is hoping they carry that form into Sunday’s contest.

“The biggest thing for me is I wanted the players to experience the second leg at The Den in an evening game,” Harris said. “Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got to put in a really good performance up at Bradford to make sure we’re in the tie for the second leg, that’s first and foremost.

“We take nothing for granted but if we have a good performance at Bradford then the second leg at The Den will be really exciting, really hostile and a great atmosphere. And that’s what I want my players to experience.

“It’s been a fantastic season, a great achievement to get to 81 points. We certainly look forward to two competitive legs.”

Sunday’s fixture has a 12.15pm start, making it an awkward trip for Lions fans. Travelling by train on the morning of the game is not an option with the first not arriving at Bradford Interchange from London until a few minutes before kick-off.

Both clubs are recently accustomed to an earlier kick-off after the 12.30pm kick-offs on the final day of League One action, and Harris dismisses the ides there will be any advantage or disadvantage for either side.

“Last week probably helped both teams, Bradford had the early kick-off at home as did we, so we stayed in a hotel,” Harris said.

“Both sets of players have prepared a week before and got used to it. Both teams have to travel the length of the country at some stage.

“So it’ll be two very well-matched sides going toe to toe, everything between the teams is very similar.

“It’ll be down to me to get it right tactically, with the team selection, and it’s down to my players to perform. I’ll be demanding two Millwall performances.”

While Bradford boss Phil Parkinson guided the Bantams to a win in the League Two play-off final and progression to the League Cup final in 2013, as well as an FA Cup quarter-final last season, Millwall also have plenty of knockout-competition experience in their squad.

David Forde, Tony Craig and Jimmy Abdou have been involved in two play-off campaigns with Millwall, while Steve Morrison played in 2010. Byron Webster and Ed Upson also won promotion to the Championship through the play-offs with Yeovil in 2013.

Harris believes the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy semi-final against Oxford earlier in the season – when Millwall lost 2-0 at home before almost turning around the deficit with a 1-0 win at Kassam Stadium – was also important for his side ahead of the Bradford contests.

Harris said: “The senior players like Fordey, Jimmy, Tone and Steve will be key because they’ve not just experience of the play-offs but have lots of experience of this club. It’s massively vital.

“Tomo (Ben Thompson) and Sid (Nelson) have been in the crowd at play-off games, so they know what to expect and that’s key also. There are other players who have featured in play-off games so there will be plenty of experience in our team.

“We played a double-legged semi-final against Oxford which will stand us in good stead, being in those kinds of pressure situations. We learned from the first leg against Oxford and put that in place in the second leg.

“But again, Bradford will be the same, they’ve had some big games in the last couple of years and some big cup runs. Phil’s certainly got the experience of play-offs as well. It’s very much like for like.”

John Kelly