MILLWALL boss Neil Harris is hoping the proximity to a return to Wembley will ensure a large attendance at The Den on Thursday night.
The Lions are just 180 minutes away from a JPT final in April, with League Two Oxford standing in the way of a first appearance at the famous venue since the FA Cup semi-final against Wigan in 2013.
Harris has treated the competition seriously from the start, when Shaun Williams’ late header in the first round win over Peterborough in September was the spark for improved form after a difficult period at the beginning of the season.
Almost 1,500 Millwall fans travelled to the southern section semi-final against Southend, and Harris wants a positive result in the first leg to guarantee similar support at Kassam Stadium on February 3.
“I think there will be a good atmosphere,” Harris said. “Oxford over the years have had good support and I think our fans will enjoy this occasion. We had a great following at Southend in the last round.
“We’re now at the business end of the competition where the focus of Wembley at the end of it is now close. Our support will make it a good atmosphere.
“As long as the first leg is competitive and we get a foothold in the tie to put ourselves in a good position for the second leg we know we’ll have a strong following going there also.”
Meanwhile, Aiden O’Brien, who signed a new long-term contract with the club this week, knows the scale of the challenge his side face, but insists he won’t be taking any nerves into the game despite such a big prize on offer to the winners of the tie.
“They’re not going to be pushovers,” O’Brien said. “They’re going to come and try to win the game, as we are. It’s going to be a tough game and a very good game to watch.
“I watched clips of (Oxford’s 3-2 win over Swansea), I didn’t watch all of it because I was at church. But they look like a good team and a very direct team. We have to make sure that when we attack we’re going to penetrate their defence.
“I’m never nervous before going into a game. It’s a game of football, we all get paid for it because we’re good at it. We get paid for a reason, this is our job for a reason.
“Personally I’m never nervous and I think of it as 11 players on one side of the pitch and 11 on the other. Whoever I’m playing against, I’m going to be better than him. There’s no doubt about that.
“I look at his face and I think, ‘You’re not going to be better than me today.’ As I go along I’m more confident than him, it affects him and I begin to get into his head and become better than him during the game. That’s how I go into games.”