Big defensive decisions for Millwall boss at Oxford

NEIL HARRIS will have a defensive selection dilemma for the first time this season at Oxford United on Saturday.

Shaun Cummings completed his first 90 minutes of competitive football since January 30 against QPR U23s on Monday, while Shaun Hutchinson played his first full competitive game in a Millwall shirt.

Both players came through the fixture without any setbacks and will bolster Harris’ options for the trip to the Kassam Stadium.

And Harris believes the extra competition for places is driving up standards.

He said: “That’s key. You talk about a lack of form and sub-consciously (form drops) if you don’t have competition.

“What I do know is I’ve got a great group of lads with good desire. They say class is permanent and form is temporary. It’s safe to say a lot of our players haven’t been on form, and that’s not speaking out of turn against my players, they all know that.

“We’re seeing a lot of players coming back into form again and the competition for places is really important.

“You see that with teams like Bolton and Sheffield United, they have a lot of competition for places. It’s vital at any level but when you’re striving to be around the top of the league you must have it, you have to be able to take players out and put quality players in, whether through lack of form or resting them.

“There have been times when we haven’t had players on form but I haven’t felt I’ve been able to make changes.

“In the last four games we’ve looked a lot better, more reliable and giving very few chances away.

“But we’ve still been conceding goals. That has been down to individual errors but it looks a lot more promising.”

Another defender, Christian Mbulu, has recovered after a number of months out with a knee injury, and he was among the scorers in Millwall’s 5-1 win over the Hoops this week.

Harris said: “It’s good to see people on the scoresheet, and a special mention for Christian Mbulu, a young centre-half who got his first 45 minutes on the back of 20 minutes against Palace.

“He scored and he looked assured and fit. He hasn’t been around the first team yet but we’ve got high hopes for him. It’s nice to see him on the pitch again playing with a smile on his face after a long injury.”

With Hutchinson and Cummings back, Sid Nelson could be pushed down the pecking order. However, Harris has ruled out a loan move for the defender.

Image source: ©Millwall FC

John Kelly