Millwall boss refuses to blame referee – despite extra injury-time allowing Boro to snatch draw

MILLWALL boss Neil Harris didn’t blame referee Kevin Friend after the Lions lost a 97th-minute goal against Middlesbrough on Saturday – two minutes past the five minutes that had gone up on the fourth official’s board.

Millwall were two goals up at half-time against Boro through goals from Aiden O’Brien and Lee Gregory.

Martin Braithwaite pulled one back in the 88th minute, before George Friend stabbed in an unlikely leveller.

Harris accepted that Millwall were “sloppy” as they failed to protect their lead, and he admitted he did have an issue that the game was allowed go past the 96th minute.

Harris explained: “Fair play to the fourth official, when it got to five I said ‘that’s time’ and he said there was another minute for two yellow cards and a little bit of time-wasting. I’ve got no problem with that – we did take our time.

“The sixth minute I’ve got no problem with. But in the sixth minute Boro get a free-kick and take their time taking it. They take a throw-in and allow their centre-halves get into the box.

“At six minutes he [Ryan Shotton] releases the ball from the throw-in – I’ve watched it back – we head it clear to the edge of the box and the referee should then blow the whistle, as soon as we make the first contact. He doesn’t, and look, we concede the goal because we’re sloppy in our defensive play.

“But the referee going home tonight, does he care? Well he hasn’t made a mistake, it doesn’t affect his life. Ultimately it affects us and our three points.

“But, let me make it clear, I’m not blaming the referee for us not getting three points. We shot ourselves in the foot.”

Millwall dominated the majority of the game, before that chaotic final 10 minutes. Asked if he was disappointed to only claim a point, Harris said: “Yes and no.”

He continued: “For 88 minutes I doubt we’ll play as well as that this season. That was as good a Millwall performance you could wish to see, home or away.

“I’ll stop short of saying it was men versus boys for 88 minutes but at what we do and how we dominated Boro, it was phenomenal.

“But if you don’t get the third goal, the fourth goal, the fifth goal that we could have had then you leave yourself open to disappointment at the end.

“Fair play to Boro, the kept banging on the door but we gave them a really cheap goal. The first goal was a really poor decision by us. If you do that against good teams and good players you get punished for it.

“The second goal was just naïve by us again. For 88 minutes, brilliant, a top Millwall performance, really happy manager. But in injury-time it’s just not good enough by us.

“If there are tired legs you can’t have tired minds. We talk about it a lot, we play with high tempo, intensity and aggressiveness. The players know that, there were no debuts on the pitch today. They know how we play and they delivered the game plan perfectly for 88 minutes.

“We make a really poor individual error and at the end we switch off as a team. The learning curve today has to be that doesn’t happen again to us this season. We set the standards for 88 minutes how good we can be and will be this year, but if you want to achieve and you want to play with the best players in the country at the next level or this level then you can’t switch off, as an individual or a team.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly