Millwall boss: 'We've not looked at free agents – we've stuck with the players'

NEIL Harris believes his side’s comeback at Nottingham Forest will boost the gate at The Den on Saturday for the visit of Aston Villa and added: “We’ve got belief in what we do.”

The Lions had lost six of their last seven league games and that appeared set to become seven in eight when Joao Carvalho – two minutes after the players from both teams had returned to the pitch following floodlight failure in the 68th minute – added to the first-half lead Joe Lolley had given Aitor Karanka’s side.

But Harris felt that was when the Lions showed their “spirit” and “passion” and Shaun Williams headed in four minutes after Carvalho’s free-kick to reduce the deficit with 16 minutes left.

Millwall continued to press and suffered another couple of blows when they had a penalty appeal turned down after the ball seemed to strike a Forest hand, before substitute Tom Bradshaw powered home a header, but referee Jon Moss whistled for a questionable foul by the striker on Adlene Guedioura.

But, in the first minute of injury-time, Millwall were rewarded for their fight when Lee Gregory tapped home at the far post to earn his side a deserved point.

Lions supporters have yet to see their side win away in the Championship this season, but will have been encouraged by their team’s performance at the City Ground.

“It’s tough, but the fans have been brilliant this year. They’re sticking with the players, they’re sticking with me. That’s important to the group,” Harris said.

“Are we immune to criticism? Course we’re not, course we’re not. We understand that’s part of the game. Look at Steve Bruce today. Football is a crazy world. But we have got belief in our dressing room and in what we do – staff, players, the board – and it’s important that we continue to do what we believe in and continue to build.

“We have not taken three-and-a-half-years to build what we have had to lose it all in five crazy weeks. That’s the important message. I have stuck with my system, stuck with my group of players and not looked at free agents that are out there to bring in. I stuck with them because I believe in them and what we do, and why wouldn’t I?

“We’ve had some bad results, but why have we had bad results? We have had horrendous luck, a horrendous transfer window at the end and we have had some bad performances, individually. Will we get better? Yes, we will, because we’ve always got better. Sometimes you just need a performance and a result to dig you out of a slump.

“Is it a good one Saturday for us on the back of tonight? Yes it is, because that will put another 2,000 people on the gate on Saturday, tonight’s result and comeback, and in my words tonight they’ll see the heart in me and the passion in the players tonight and the performance. They will want to be there on Saturday.”

It was a drama-filled evening on the Trent, with Moss central to the controversy.

Harris said: “Tom Bradshaw scored the header and it was ruled out for a push. I have seen it back and it’s very soft. It’s a great header from Tom.

“Handball is not given, which is the most blatant penalty you will see this season. If as a manager I can’t demand consistency from our officials – and he is a good official as well, a Premier League official – if he gets that wrong and we conceded a penalty at the weekend for the same incident [against Sheffield United], where is the consistency in the game? I think what myself and Aitor will be thinking is, what is the rule?

“You think, ‘it’s not our night again’, but the boys dug in and showed belief and, let’s be honest, they showed some real quality as well and class, and they showed their spirit.

“They showed what they’re about – the group, the staff, the players, the subs. Jem Karacan didn’t make the squad tonight but travelled. I think that’s the combined effort. That’s not kick-started our season – only tell will tell – but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly