MILLWALL manager Neil Harris believes his players are “growing in reputation” after their 2-1 win over Middlesbrough at The Den on Saturday.
The Lions have now taken seven points in December from games against Boro, Aston Villa and Sheffield United as they climbed to within three points of the top half of the Championship table.
Jed Wallace and George Saville gave Millwall a two-goal lead in the first half, before Stewart Downing’s long-range effort slipped past Jordan Archer with 23 minutes left.
But Archer and his side composed themselves to repel a late Boro onslaught and clinch their sixth win in 11 home games this season.
“I think it’s clear top teams don’t really like coming here this season,” Harris said. “We are what we are as a football club, we have to make it hostile and intimidating. We have to play aggressive football with and without the ball.
“We play very good football as well, you see that with the first goal in particular. Players have got real desire and determination.
“We haven’t got players that are worth millions of pounds, but I think we’ve got a lot of players that are growing in reputation at this level because they are very good footballers.
“I think the biggest compliment I can give them is that they are a very good team – a team as in together. I thought we made a top Middlesbrough side look really ordinary at times and the disappointment is that we didn’t keep a clean sheet and we didn’t go and score four or five.”
Millwall dominated from set-pieces and Lee Gregory almost gave them the lead when he helped Shaun Hutchinson’s header from a corner towards goal but Darren Randolph saved.
“Set-plays are key at all levels, you’ve got to try to utilise what you’re good at,” Harris said. “Boro, for example, are very good at manipulating the ball and they’ve got pace and quality. We’re maybe a little bit behind them in those aspects but we’ve got determination and desire to attack the ball in [Jake] Cooper, Hutchinson, [Steve] Morison, Saville, from set-plays.
“We were a threat today.”
Harris paid tribute to Gregory and Morison, who almost got his first goal of the season but saw Randolph save his close-range shot.
“I thought Steve Morison was outstanding. Lee and Steve’s work ethic, link-up play, the way they got us on the ball on the counter-attack. We defended from the front. Steve and Lee at times almost took care of four defenders on their own.It was an impressive display by both.
"I thought combinations all over the park were really good. The two centre-halves against a very expensive forward line were excellent, and the two in midfield, which turned into three in the second half when Shaun Williams came on with Ryan [Tunicliffe] and George, dominated in the middle of the park. Combinations down the spine of the team were excellent.”
Harris admitted Middlesbrough had shown their quality early on, but felt referring decisions contributed to an increase in intensity, and his players responded.
Harris said: “At this club the players certainly feed off the fan base, that’s no secret. Today I thought Boro dominated early and looked every bit as good a team as they are. Then the referee made a couple of strange decisions in a five-, 10-minute window that galvanised the fans and the players and we responded and fed off that.
“It took us 15 or 20 minutes to get a foothold in the game. Boro want to overload areas and switch the play, and they did that against us. When the tackles started flying in and when the referee lost that sense of control – not in a bad way, there were a couple of wrong throw-ins or whatever – it galvanised us and angered my players and we saw the response.
“When the game became rough and tumble and aggressive and a fight, we shone. If we’d got the third goal just before half-time we could have gone on to get four and five.
“The 20/25 minutes leading up to half-time was as good as any in my time in charge.”
Image: Millwall FC