Millwall boss poses question to players after defeat to Fulham in the EFL Cup

NEIL Harris said he will find the “right formula” after seeing his side knocked out of the EFL Cup by Fulham on Tuesday night.

Harris made eight changes to his side from the weekend’s league defeat at West Brom, but Premier League Fulham were comfortable winners.

Joe Bryan gave Slavisa Jokanovic’s side a 1-0 lead at the break, before Harris switched to a 3-5-2 formation for the second half bringing on Mahlon Romeo for Jiri Skalak.

Luca de la Torre doubled the Cottagers’ advantage seven minutes into the second period, before Millwall briefly gave themselves a chance when Tom Elliott headed in his first goal of the season from Shane Ferguson’s corner.

But Cyrus Christie scored his side’s third to ease Fulham’s passage to the last 16.

“First half they showed their class, real ability,” Harris said. “We know they’ve got good players, expensive players. They showed their class without the ball as well, the way they pressed and harried to get it back. It was the execution of passes, the movement was sharp and crisp.

“The moments we had when we did get some sort of relief and corners and got the ball up the pitch I didn’t think we were good enough with the ball in those areas to really threaten.

“Hence why we changed at half-time. We had to change shape to get after the ball a little bit higher up the pitch against Premier League players. I was a lot happier second half, we imposed ourselves a bit more.

“The third goal was a real killer. The timing of the three goals was poor, disappointing for us. But the third goal was the killer just when we were building up some momentum.”

Millwall face Sheffield United in the Championship next Saturday. Last season, Harris switched to 3-5-2 against the Blades at half-time at The Den before his side scored two second-half goals to win 3-1.

He said: “We spoke about it in the past and I’ve used it the odd time. It’s something we might consider. Personnel becomes key, who’s fit and who’s not.

“When you play against good players, if you match them up then player-for-player they can be better than you. But if you’re not going man-for-man then they can hurt you anyway.

“Sometimes you have to adapt during the game, and we thought it was important to change shape to match them up just to get a higher press on the ball.

“I said to the group it was no disgrace losing 3-1 to a Premier League side. I made some changes because of knocks and niggles and to rest players with this ridiculous schedule we’re in, but also to give players opportunities to grab the shirt.

“My programme notes were honest and clear that we are looking for the right formula and combinations and the right team to get back to winning ways. But there’s a fine line between loyalty to players that aren’t performing to their top ability but have done for a period of time, and also giving an opportunity to players to stake a claim.

“My question to the players is did everybody tonight do enough to warrant a starting place on Saturday? It wasn’t harsh words, but a serious question and a little bit of thinking time for the players.

“I am searching for the right formula and I will get it right and get us back on the front foot with momentum, and we will start winning games again.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly