Livers highlights Harris leadership after Oxford win

DAVE Livermore paid tribute to Lions boss Neil Harris for his leadership through a difficult period when Millwall failed to win in September and lost four successive League One games before registering a third league win in four with the 2-1 defeat of Oxford on Saturday.

The Lions fell behind at the Kassam Stadium at the weekend before Steve Morison and then Aiden O'Brien struck to leave Millwall within three points of the play-off places.

Millwall assistant boss Livermore is pleased with the recent form and accepted criticism of the side's struggles earlier in the campaign.

"Mood and opinions fluctuate with results and that's how the game is," Livermore said. "In that run of defeats that we had we felt the performances were okay but we just didn't get the result.

"But Neil has managed the guys through that period really, really well. Hopefully we can continue to improve and progress like we are and move further up the table.

"We want clean sheets. If you look at the teams that get promoted they generally average 18 clean sheets a season.

"If you look at that as a benchmark we need to achieve then we need to stop the ball from going in our net. I felt we limited them to very few chances (Saturday) but when (opponents) do get a chance it seems to be a good quality chance.

"But again I thought over 90 minutes we defended very well.

"Oxford did all they could to win the game. They put two centre-forwards on, moved midfield players back to full-back and really had us pinned in.

"We could have been better on the break, there were a few where we could have retained the ball better, but on the whole I don't think we could have been better with how we defended."

Last Saturday was the first time Harris has had a full squad to choose from, and Livermore believes that is crucial to the side's recent upturn in form.

He said: "In any team up and down the country if there aren't lads not in the team putting pressure on those in the team then sub-consciously – and I don't think it's intentionally – your levels can drop.

"Having people back fit and having competition for places is vital and I think that's forcing the lads that have the shirts at the moment to raise their standards and levels of performances."

Two players who have forged a good understanding recently are Fred Onyedinma and Mahlon Romeo. The pair regularly linked up to threaten Oxford's defence, with Romeo providing the assist for O'Brien's goal.

Livermore is pleased with how they are performing but says there is more to come.

"That's been a real trend in our recent performances, those two down the right-hand side," he said. "It's good to see and we'll try to keep them in the right frame of mind.

"Young Fred has been excellent recently for us, he's the player we saw at the start of last season so I'm really pleased for him. He had to overcome a bit of a quiet period but he's showing signs of becoming the player we know he can be.

"But it's only four or five games he's done that for, we need that out of him week in, week out."

Millwall have a break in League One with the first round of the FA Cup to be negotiated against Southend on Friday.

Asked about the approach to that fixture and where it lay in Millwall's list of priorities, Livermore said: "Win the next game."

He added: "That's one of Neil's mantras. Whether it's the Checkatrade Trophy or the FA Cup or League Cup our focus is always trying to win the game.

"We've got Southend on a Friday night at The Den so it should be a good atmosphere. They beat us not too long ago so that gives us a little bit of incentive."

Image source: ©Millwall FC

John Kelly