NEIL Harris is calling on his Millwall players to be “dogged” and “resilient” as they chase a first win in five games when the face Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Tuesday night.
Last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Swindon leaves Millwall needing a win to draw level on points with sixth-placed Swindon.
The Lions produced a smash-and-grab raid against the Blades in the corresponding league fixture last season, Aiden O’Brien’s brace giving them an unexpected 2-1 win.
Harris knows the task they have against a Sheffield United side four wins away from promotion to the Championship.
“It’s a really good one for us tomorrow to go to the league leaders,” Harris said. “We have to be right at it, it’ll be a difficult one. It’s a chance for us to refocus and get a reaction from Saturday’s defeat.
“A repeat of [last season] would be perfect, to be honest. Last year we weren’t in great form when we went there. It was a big occasion, especially for some of the younger players, their first time playing in front of 20 or 25,000 people. And we came away with the points.
“They’ve got a good squad, there will probably be 25,000 again in the ground. We’ve got be really dogged, resilient, show Millwall-like aggression and play on the front foot – a lot of the things we didn’t do Saturday that we usually do really well.
“And we certainly have to use the ball better going forward.”
Millwall have had a busy workload recently, with a number of rescheduled league games after their run to the last eight of the FA Cup.
They have seven games in April as their season comes down to a decisive final month, and Harris could make changes to his side for the contest against Chris Wilder’s side.
“I’ve asked a lot of my players,” he said. “I’ve rotated some. I put Mahlon [Romeo] in at the weekend, Calum [Butcher] played the last couple of games because I thought Ben [Thompson] had to come out of the team.
“Maybe it was a game too far on Saturday and we were relying too much on some players. But when you trust players and they’ve performed really well over a period for you, you want to keep going with them.
“Some players have played with knocks and I’ve asked them to go and go again. I’ll have to look at that, if I’ve asked too much of them.
“I’ll consider my options, probably all the way up to [Tuesday] afternoon before naming the side.”
Immediately after their setback at The County Ground, Harris spent time on the pitch talking with assistant Dave Livermore and coach Adam Barrett, and though there was initial anger at the performance he said he was able to put the game into context.
“I was frustrated and there were a few home truths for the players, where we went wrong,” Harris admitted. “But then we took a couple of moments outside just to calm down and say, ‘well, it’s the same group of lads who have just gone 16 unbeaten in the league’.
“We were poor, no excuses.
“Defensively I never saw us conceding a goal, there was one Jordan [Archer] brushed away after a ricochet. And then we got done with a ricochet in the last minute.
“We used the ball poorly, our triggers to press were wrong. That was the disappointment and I said that to the players afterwards. It’s disappointing, of course it is, but the boys have been excellent for us.
“It’s more about why we were poor and getting to the bottom of it. Over the course of the weekend and Monday it’s about realising who needs a rest, who didn’t play well but played well the week before, loads of little things to consider.
“It was certainly about taking a deep breath and looking at the context of the whole game.
“It was two years in a row we’ve gone and conceded in the last minute there. It happened to me three years in a row as a player against Bury.
“Those coincidences happen in football. I’ve no problem losing a game, it’s the way we didn’t perform that was disappointing.”
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