Millwall boss on 'unjust' criticism and show of solidarity with post-match Birmingham huddle

NEIL Harris felt his side responded in perfect fashion to what he felt was some unfair criticism after the 2-1 defeat at Bolton Wanderers last weekend.

Millwall looked a different side on Wednesday – with four changes from the team at Bolton – as they decisively beat Birmingham City 2-0 to end a run of four straight Championship defeats.

Ben Thompson rounded off a scintillating counter-attacking move when he fired home from Lee Gregory’s cross in the 13th minute.

Thompson scored his second when he ran in off the left, after Gregory’s brilliant touch, and produced a composed finish past Lee Camp. It was the first time Thompson had scored two goals in a senior professional match.

Millwall were comfortable after the break and limited Birmingham to difficult chances and shots from outside the area as goalkeeper David Martin kept his second clean sheet in his second league start for the club.

In his post-match press conference, it was pointed out to Harris that he seemed a lot happier after their win at St Andrew’s than after the Bolton defeat.

He responded: “I am because some very unfair articles were written at the weekend from various people, criticising me and my players. Some of it was very unjust and it hurt us. It hurt me, it hurt my players and we wanted to respond tonight.

“You saw that in the players. You saw the spirit in my group. It is tough to win games at Championship level, we’ve had a difficult spell.

“Tonight I picked a team that could compete with Birmingham and could cause them problems on the counter-attack. I thought the lads were outstanding. Ben Thompson will get the plaudits, of course he will for the goals, but I think he will be the first admit that the team itself was excellent.”

Harris was asked if there was anything they specifically worked on after the weekend’s defeat.

“Not a great deal to be honest, because of the short turnaround,” Harris said. “Sometimes speaking less is better, when you let the players get on with it.

“We worked on a game plan yesterday in training and today at the hotel. The players followed it. Sometimes you have to make brave decisions to change personnel and shape and I thought the players that came into the side were excellent.”

Ryan Leonard anchored midfield, while there were also recalls for Ryan Tunnicliffe and Ben Marshall.

After the final whistle, Harris, his players and staff formed a huddle on the pitch before applauding the visiting fans in the away end.

“That was to show our solidarity, an opportunity to say well done to the players,” Harris said. “Those are the standards we have set and we have got to keep them until the end of the season.

“It was to show everybody, you guys [the media] and the fans that didn't make it that you can criticise us all you want but we are a strong group and we do our best for the club.

“At the end of the day, that's all I can ask from my players.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly