Millwall boss on Aston Villa draw: 'We must win games like this to be top-half side'

By Jake Sanders

MILLWALL manager Neil Harris was happy with his players after their point against Aston Villa – but insisted his side must win these kinds of games to go to the next level.

The Lions dominated the contest for large spells, but were unable to beat in-form Villa stopper Sam Johnstone as they missed a host of chances on a frustrating afternoon.

Lee Gregory had Millwall’s best opportunity on 75 minutes, but his left-footed effort struck the bar and Aston Villa survived.

Jed Wallace also missed a golden chance in the first-half. He was played through by Aiden O’Brien, but the winger was denied by a smart Johnstone save as the game finished scoreless.

Lions goalkeeper David Martin, who was making his debut in the absence of the ill Jordan Archer, was rarely threatened.

Harris said: “I am delighted with my players’ performance. I thought the team was outstanding.

“From the first whistle to the last I thought we unsettled a good Aston Villa side and we quietened a passionate crowd. We dominated the game for large parts, limited Aston Villa to very few chances on goal. I don’t think my goalkeeper hasn’t made a save all game.

“I said to the players I am at that stage where I can be a little bit critical and I can say, ‘we want more’. The belief, the mentality, the performance was there. Chances were there. I am not going to bemoan players for not scoring, but I just said if we want to become a top-half team, we need to win games like that.

“I thought the game had everything from us. I thought we had passion, quality, challenges, and everything I expect from a Millwall team was there today.

“Our defensive shape was excellent. We looked solid, we looked reliable and were excellent on the counter-attack. But what we lacked on the counter-attack was our end product. I said to the boys that is where we must be better. But the chances we created were excellent and I thought we deserved to win the game.”

Harris was pleased with the performance from the returning O’Brien, who took the place of the injured Shane Ferguson.

“I thought, barring Nottingham Forest, today was his best performance of the season,” Harris said. “We left him out of the team because he had not been up to his standards. His opportunity came on Thursday because Shane Ferguson got injured an hour into the session and Aiden had a point to prove today, on a big stage in a big game and I thought his performance was excellent.

Mahlon Romeo made his second start of the season despite Conor McLaughlin’s return from suspension.

“Last week we beat Sheffield United, a top side 3-1 at home, Mahlon was excellent in his performance and he scored,” Harris said. “However good Conor has been this year it would have been very unjust to leave him out. It’s a fortunate position. I have two top right-backs.”

Image: Millwall FC