Millwall players deserve credit for improvement, says boss

© Millwall FC
© Millwall FC

NEIL Harris says his squad’s willingness to work hard is the key element in their recent good run of defensive form. 

Millwall have conceded just two goals in six games since they leaked five at Peterborough on October 3 and it's now over 400 minutes since they let in a goal at home when Peter Vincenti scored for Rochdale on September 26.

Saturday’s clean sheet came at a cost, however, with Tony Craig set to see a specialist this week after suffering an injury that looks like it will rule him out of Saturday’s FA Cup tie against AFC Fylde and probably beyond.

Byron Webster came on for the club captain against Bradford and Harris was pleased with his contribution.

The Millwall boss also highlighted the roles of his coaches in tightening up the defence.

“It’s a lot of work on the training pitch, but it’s down to the players,” Harris said. “It’s not just the back four – it’s their desire, the team shape and bravery and aggression. We speak about that a lot at this football club. It’s also their determination to keep a clean sheet.

“We’ve adjusted a few things since the start of the season when we were conceding goals. Peterborough probably just highlighted it and we decided we needed to change.

But it’s the players, my staff – Andy Frampton and Dave Livermore in particular with the defensive side of things.

“It all comes down to the players. You put on whatever session you like and ask them to do certain things but they have to do it themselves.

“I thought Byron Webster was brilliant when he came on. I thought he showed aggression. It’s a difficult time for a centre-half to come on without a warm-up. But he went out there and I thought he was a man mountain when he came one.”

Bantams boss Phil Parkinson felt the clash was the most physical his side have been involved in this season with Harris saying “there was a lot of cancelling each other out”.

Shaun Williams made his return after two games out with a back injury to come closest to breaking the deadlock and his manager buy famciclovir tablets revealed the midfielder’s determination to be involved in the game.

Harris explained: “Shaun Williams trained for 20 minutes (Friday). That’s it, that’s all he did before the game. But he knocked on my door and he wanted to play. He wanted to be in the team and that’s a nice conundrum for a manager.”

Millwall now face two cup fixtures in quick succession as they attempt to progress in the FA Cup this weekend before they visit Plymouth in the area quarter-finals of the Football League Trophy next Tuesday.

After climbing eight places in October to seventh in the Sky Bet League One table the Lions will also face two stern tests of their promotion ambitions this month against two of the season’s surprise form sides, Burton Albion and Bury.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Harris added. “I said at the start of the season we had no expectation level this year.

“We need to grow as a team and a club again and build the foundations. We’re certainly doing that and getting better all the time.

“But we’re not getting carried away. We’re starting to develop into a good squad of players.”

Meanwhile, defender Carlos Edwards has had his contract extended until the end of the season.

Edwards initially signed a deal until January after he had proven his fitness following almost a year out with a knee injury.

The 37-year-old told the club’s official website: "They say hard work pays off and the contract extension was something the club and I were working towards for some time.

"The club has kept its promise and now I'm looking to help Millwall back to the Championship.

"I had no doubt that once I got my head down I would be back playing and now I'm enjoying every moment.

"I'm not someone who suffers from self-doubt. I want to play and I was determined to force my way back into the team. I'm not going to take my foot off the pedal because I've got a deal to the end of the season.

"I'm looking for us as a group and as a club to push on and try to win promotion."

John Kelly