NEIL Harris hailed the resilience and desire of Steve Morison after the Millwall captain returned from injury to play a key role in the 2-0 win over Birmingham City.
Morison, who missed last weekend’s loss at Brentford, was instrumental in the Lions taking the lead, beating defender Michael Morrison before sending in a low cross that Maxime Colin turned past his goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
Ryan Tunnicliffe scored his first goal for Millwall to seal the win, after two successive league losses.
Harris took Morison off late on, and joked the striker – who had blood streaming from a cut to his face – wouldn’t have been happy to have been substituted after being a doubt to start the fixture.
"He trained all week. We played it down because we didn’t want to put any pressure on him," Harris said. “I asked him to play and he puts himself up. He would never say no because that’s the character he is. I shouldn’t have played him against Barnsley leading up to the international break. The period off did him the world of good. We saw a rejuvenated Steve Morison – he led the line superbly with Lee Gregory.
“The plan was if he trained all week then he would be involved, whether from the start or off the bench.
“I felt after two defeats I needed some leadership, some senior players on the pitch and Steve fits the bill.
“He has a big heart. He’s always been athletic from when I played with him, a strong runner. He has desire, he wants to play and play well. He would have had the right hump when I took him off because he wants to stay on the pitch.
“He was straight down the tunnel for stitches. I was taking him off anyway, I just did it slightly quicker at the set-piece.
“Tom Elliott came on and was superb also. It’s unfair to single anyone out in such a strong performance and a clean sheet but the three strikers played well.”
Tunnicliffe is in the side with Shaun Williams out injured, and he capped an excellent performance when he finished after Elliott had seen his shot saved by Kuszczak.
Harris said: “I thought Tunni was excellent. We’ve had a learning week this week, gone back to basics.
“When you take someone like Shaun Williams out of the team we all have to adjust because he knits it together so well.
“Tunni is a really good footballer, coming through at Man United and then Fulham. When you play in our team you have to adjust.
“I signed him because I know he can do it. Tunni’s had some coaching and the boys have had to adjust and they attacked the sessions really well, they really enjoyed it, video work, the stuff on the training pitch with myself and Livers [Dave Livermore] and Adam [Barrett] has been really good and we saw the rewards tonight.
“In footballing terms, I know [Tunnicliffe] is 24, but he’s still not played 100s of games. For me, 100 games is a benchmark and you’re a proper pro then, 200 games and you’re an experienced player.
“It’s a hard place, to be fair, United, to get games coming through as a young man. He’s been in and out of teams and probably never had that real run of games.
“He showed real desire to come here and he knew it was going to be a challenge. There’s no airs and graces, when I go to meet players wanting to sign them, in terms of what’s expected of them. It’s either for them or it’s not. When I spoke to him he really fancied it.
“His performance tonight was a very impressive midfield performance by a Millwall player, both him and George [Saville].
“We knew it was going to be a scrap, a battle on the pitch, it would be about challenging for the first ball. There was a lot of direct play from both teams and second-ball regain was important as well.
“Birmingham came to compete with us tonight and I thought it was an outstanding Millwall performance. We stuck to the task really well and were on the front foot for most of the game.
“Birmingham picked up the odd ball ahead of us but it didn’t last.
“I said to the players as much it was going to be a fight and battle that there would be an opportunity for moments of quality.”
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