MILLWALL boss Neil Harris won’t be “sugar-coating” the perilous position his side are in – and he is confident his players can deliver when on the “big stage”.
Harris highlighted that his players have shown their “character” in “testing games” over the past four seasons, ahead of a clash at Bolton that could be hugely decisive in the relegation battle.
Millwall would move eleven points clear of second-last Bolton with a win on Saturday, but a defeat combined with wins for Reading, who play Wigan, and Rotherham at Sheffield United would put the Lions in the drop zone with ten games left.
Harris pointed to fixtures like Bristol Rovers away in 2016-17, when his side had to win on the final day to finish sixth, as reason to believe they have the fortitude to get results when the pressure is at its most intense. In that game Shaun Hutchinson scored with just five minutes left for a 4-3 victory, before Millwall defeated Scunthorpe in the play-off semi-finals and then Bradford at Wembley.
Millwall have also enjoyed cup success against Premier League sides in front of a full Den and the live television cameras, as well as big wins as they went so close to a top-six finish in 2017-18.
“At the end of last season we had a couple of six-pointers thinking about the play-offs. Fulham was probably one, Middlesbrough as well,” Harris said.
“This is the first one this season I’ve felt that. I knew the importance of Ipswich and Reading at Christmas.
“You usually look at six-pointers and they’re end-of-season games. Reading and Ipswich were six-pointers, really, given where we were at the time. And we came through them with flying colours, in terms of our character and the results.
“Over the course of the last four seasons we’ve had some huge games, some testing games. Play-off games, Bristol Rovers – there was no more pressurised a situation than that.
“Let’s be honest, at the time we were a top-six side that should have been in the play-offs, budget-wise and the squad we had put together.
“But we had to win to get in, and we did. We got to the play-off final, won it. We won big games last year, won big games this year. We’ve had some great cup runs.
“So we can perform on the big stage. I know I’ve got that in my players.
“I’ve been saying to them this week it’s a massive game, there’s no point sugar-coating it – it’s huge.”
Harris feels his side can take confidence despite their 3-1 defeat at home to Norwich City last weekend.
He also believes there is more pressure on Phil Parkinson’s side to get three points.
Harris continued: “Bolton need to win the game, in my opinion, whereas we have a bit more freedom than that.
“It’s one that if I was a player I would be really looking forward to. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing my players perform because I thought last weekend against Norwich they were outstanding. Everything that I demanded they did.
“At the time I thought we were good but after watching it back we were better than I thought we were. Watching it back you realise how good Norwich were and how many good young players they’ve got.
“I was really proud of my players and we’ve got to carry that forward into this weekend.”
Image: Millwall FC