Harris admits Millwall 'nerves' – as Stoke boss claims Lions escaped red card and 'nailed-on' penalty

NEIL Harris praised his side for their effort in the 0-0 draw with Stoke City on Saturday – as Potters boss Nathan Jones felt his side were denied a “stonewall” penalty.

Stoke dominated the first half at The Den and Benik Afobe had a great chance to put his side ahead only to be denied by goalkeeper David Martin’s brave block.

Jones thought Afobe had been fouled by Alex Pearce as the striker was trying to reach Moritz Bauer’s mis-hit shot across goal.

Millwall improved in the second half and Lee Gregory had a late chance to win the game but blazed over from close range.

Rotherham had to better Millwall’s result when they went to West Brom later on Saturday to have a realistic chance of staying up.

“The time for summing the season up is going to be next Sunday,” Harris said. “What I can say is today my Millwall team battled and they ran and they challenged and they competed. They did everything that was asked of them.

“Stoke were better than us first half, their shape against ours. No complaints, we couldn’t enforce the game plan because they were just so good with the ball.

“They were miles better today than when we went up there a few months ago. Credit to Nathan for that, where he’s getting them to.

“We changed the shape at half-time, I felt we had to get a higher press on the ball. We were much better second half, we were the better team. We can talk about moments when we gave the ball away, but every player gives the ball away. I think that is the stage of the season. Nervous? Yes, 100 per cent. I think that was clear to see.

“We all want so much to be safe and start concentrating on next year. It means a lot to the players. What I would say to them is it shows that they care.

“We haven’t played at our best for a few games now, but the players care. They’re all watching the tele downstairs waiting for other results because that’s how much it means to everybody.”

Jones said: “I thought we had control and dominated the first half, had enough chances to have taken the lead. We should have had a stonewall penalty which would have changed the direction of the game because I thought it would have been a red card as well if it had been given.

“Second half was a lot more even. To be fair to them they had a right go second half. It was end to end, a bit too much end to end for my liking. I’d rather have a bit more control.

"We worked extremely hard, kept that integrity for the league in terms of showing real commitment to going and getting a result which keeps things open [in the relegation battle].

“Benik Afobe’s chance, the ball has gone across the box and he just taps that into an empty net, but Pearce pulls him back. It’s absolutely stonewall, nailed-on, undoubted penalty. And because he’s done it on purpose it’s probably a red card.

“It’s my first game managing here – I’ve been assistant manager here – and it’s a really tough place to come. We knew that. They’re a front-footed side, lots of energy, get the ball in your box to make you defend. I thought we stood up to that, especially in the second half when they are desperate for points. It would have been a lot easier for my players to not have that work rate, put their bodies on the line because we had relatively little to play for apart from pride this year.

“But I thought we showed a great attitude and real integrity which British football is renowned for.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly