Millwall boss looks at 'bigger picture' of league survival after devastating Brighton defeat

THE silver lining after Millwall’s heart-breaking FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Brighton is that their fixture against West Brom stays on April 6 rather than being brought forward to midweek.

Millwall boss Neil Harris said an FA Cup semi-final would have been “wonderful” for the club, but accepts the “bigger picture” is that staying in the Championship is the ultimate goal this season.

Millwall face Leeds after the international break, then have another full week to prepare for the Baggies.

“There is that side of it, of course, but we’d love to have had a semi-final at Wembley carrying the momentum with us from Brighton,” Harris said. “It would have been wonderful for the players and the fans.

“It would have added to the fixture list but we would have found a way.

“But we have to look at the bigger picture. Now the big focus for us is on the league campaign, as it always has been this season. We’ve got nine huge games left and the focus is on accumulating as many points from those games as possible.”

Millwall boosted their survival hopes with their 2-0 win at Birmingham last week, when a commanding defensive performance was allied with clinical finishing as Ben Thompson scored from his side’s only two shots on target.

Harris feels that not taking their chances this season combined with a leakier defence than last campaign explains their league position, just a point above the bottom three.

Harris believes the difference is the attacking quality of the top sides.

“Against Norwich at The Den, against an outstanding football team, there was nothing in the game for long spells until the final third when they took their chances. That’s the quality the top sides have,” he said.

“We’ve been very close in nearly all our fixtures, some teams have been slightly better than us.

“At times we haven’t been as solid as we were last year. But against Brighton we showed our prowess in front of goal.

“Before that at Birmingham we had the balance right between defence and attack, we showed our work rate and discipline, that’s the standard and we need that between now and the end of the season.”

Meanwhile, an injury to Southampton forward Shane Long meant Mick McCarthy looked to his old club to call up Aiden O’Brien for European Championship qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia.

O’Brien had been in a provisional squad but missed out when it was cut down.

Harris said: “It was only going to be Shane Ferguson and Conor McLaughlin away [with Northern Ireland] but Ireland needed Aiden, and it’s great for him.

“We’re always pleased for our players representing their countries, but we keep our fingers crossed that they come back to us fit and healthy.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly