NEIL Harris was pleased with the contribution of some of the next generation of Millwall stars in the 2-1 win over Gillingham on Tuesday night that sealed a place in the last 32 of the EFL Trophy.
Six of the starting XI Harris named were aged 21 or under, and they had to show steel to battle back from a goal down to help Millwall to a first victory in seven games.
James Brown made his senior competitive debut at right-back, while on the other side of the back four Noah Chesmain (above) was given just his second start. Tom King started in goal and produced a vital late block to keep out Jake Hessenthaler’s late effort and preserve the lead.
Fred Onyedinma scored a crucial equaliser just before half-time for a Millwall side that had struggled to create clear chances in front of goal.
Sid Nelson was also in the right place in the first half to clear after Rory Donnelly had sent a ball across the face of goal.
Harris also praised Ben Thompson for the way he imposed himself on the game after the break as Millwall eventually got the goal to ensure there would be no need for penalties.
“He’s one of our young men for the future,” Harris said. “I think you put Ben, Fred, Sid in the equation, they all had good games, all can be a little bit hit and miss, but they are for the future.
“I thought Ben with his energy, drive and competitiveness brought a lot to the team.
“The two young full-backs, it was a big ask for them against a really experienced Gillingham side and I was delighted with their application and performances in the first half.”
Chesmain was withdrawn at the break after a hefty challenge on Chris Herd had earned him a yellow card.
“I just felt because he got booked before half-time, and with the way he plays, I thought they might target him in the second half,” Harris said. “So we just took a precaution, we didn’t want to go down to 10 men and be chasing the game.
“I was pleased with his first 45 minutes, and I don’t think he had a lot of protection in the first half in front of him.”
Meanwhile, Brown, who won the free-kick that led to Onyedinma's goal, could be set for a spell on the sideline after he was forced off in the second half, with Jimmy Abdou coming on and playing right-back.
Harris said: “It looks like he’s done his hamstring, which is a real shame because it was a good opportunity for the boy to maybe tie down a place in the side because he’s a super player.
“I thought he was performing really well so we’ll have to see how that settles down before going to Northampton.”
Image source: ©Millwall FC