MILLWALL boss Neil Harris admitted he wanted to see the younger players in his squad “out of their comfort zone” against Dover on Tuesday night.
Of the starting XI at Crabble Athletic Ground, only Shane Ferguson and Gregg Wylde are likely to challenge for a place against Oldham on August 6.
And Dover’s experienced and physical side ran out deserved 2-0 winners after second-half goals from Ricky Miller and Jamie Grimes.
Goalkeeper Tom King made several impressive saves to prevent Dover winning by a bigger margin, but Harris praised the "heart and attitude" of his young side.
“I was pleased with a lot of it, with the endeavour and desire and the way we competed for the majority of the game,” Harris said. “There were some good physical minutes.
“Fergie and Gregg were the only ones over the age of 21, it was good for them to get some much-needed minutes.
“For the young lads it was exactly the test we came for against a physical, aggressive top Conference side. I had to take my young players out of their comfort zone and pit them physically against a proper team who were well organised, a team of men.
“I learned a lot about those youngsters. All of them have got heart and attitude and they all competed.”
Dover’s goals came from a corner and free-kick, and Harris feels that is an area that the more inexperienced players need to pay more attention to.
“The two moments that cost us the game showed the importance of defending set-pieces,” Harris said. “That’s where unfortunately the younger players lost concentration. And they put their hands up afterwards and said, ‘Yeah, my man scored’.
“That’s no problem, but it’s about having that concentration for 90 minutes. We pride ourselves at this club on defending set-pieces and scoring set-pieces. So it just reminded us about that.
“The biggest thing of all is Dover played completely different from any other team we will face. They played man-for-man all over the park, virtually.
“I said to the boys that we need to be a little bit braver on the ball. Some of them played at Dartford but this was a different test against a top team. Maybe we were a little bit too nervous to make a mistake. But the fans come to see them do things on the ball. We were a little bit too safe at times but overall I was really pleased, it was a good learning curve for them.”
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