Millwall boss on wonder goals, Aiden O'Brien's position – and penalty-taker decision

NEIL Harris hailed Millwall’s pre-season preparations after seeing his side draw 3-3 with La Liga side Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Jed Wallace gave Millwall the lead with a penalty – after Shaun Williams had earlier missed from the spot – before Alexander Isak levelled and David Zururuza put the visitors 2-1 up at the break.

Ben Thompson curled home a stunning goal to make it 2-2 but Isak struck again to restore Sociedad's advantage.

But Millwall had the last word and another brilliant goal, Connor Mahoney firing into the top corner with seven minutes left.

“We were just talking in the office, when you look at pre-season as a whole it’s been quite good. Fantastic trip to Portugal. We played Fleetwood who are going to be a good League One side this year,” Harris said.

“We played Gillingham and Southend in two local derbies and both teams were right at it against us, they really pushed us. Then we played Braga and Real Sociedad, two top European sides. As pre-seasons go for us it’s about the best I could have hoped for.

“To get a test like that, we’re really fortunate. What a good side they are. I said to the players beforehand it was going to be like playing Everton. They’re a team that are top eight or nine in one of the best leagues in the world.

“They’ve won La Ligas, won cups, they’re a top side and are going to have good players. I sat and watched the game today to enjoy it and watch my team play, to take it in rather than to coach from the side or shout and get at the players.

“It was a huge learning curve today, there will be some really good video footage from that for us to show the players to make us even better next week.

“There were some really good individual performances. We used the ball well first half and got the ball forward at the right times. When we got the ball forward we caused them problems.

“We’ve got them down as having four or five shots, and it shows their quality that when they do get their opportunities they punish you.

“I was disappointed against Gillingham and Southend with our end product, we looked really rusty and leggy in those games. I knew we would because we did it on purpose, we pushed the boys the day before the game and the morning of the game so the boys would be tired in those games. But still I do expect from Championship players better quality in the final third. We backed off the boys the last two days and they showed their quality.

“The second and third goals were top, top strikes.

“I don’t want to put Connor under too much pressure but he’s got that ability. He’s got that cleverness when to run and when to pass or dribble. It’s natural. I’m hoping that’s a sign of things to come, that that’s the standard and he’ll be at that level and even better this season.

“If you have Matt Smith in your team at times you need people who can put the ball in the box. We’ve got players with excellent delivery in Connor, Shane [Ferguson] and Jiri [Skalak], who I was really pleased with when he came on.

“What it will do is make Jed Wallace a better player, where he lacks in end product at times he’ll have to improve. He’ll know who’s in the box and what deliveries he’s got to put in.”

Aiden O’Brien and Smith started up front together at The Den on Saturday.

Harris added: “I don’t see it as a strike partnership, Aiden in that position is not necessarily a striker. He’s an attacking player but he’s not a Jon Dadi [Bodvarsson] or Matt Smith or Tom Bradshaw. I see him as an attacking midfielder, a No. 10 in that position. That today was a 4-2-3-1, not a traditional Millwall team.

“That’s something I wanted to look at today against foreign opposition and I thought Aiden was excellent, he played really well. It’s a position he wants to play in and it’s a position I know he can play in. It was an opportunity to have a look at it today.”

Harris was also asked if there could be a change in penalty-taker after Williams missed with his last two.

Harris said: “I haven’t given it any thought really. If the goalkeeper goes the other way it’s a great penalty. If they go the right way they tend to save them.

“It’s not something that we’ve discussed, but it’s something that we will discuss this week. You do want a regular penalty-taker, and you want the ball to go in the net. If he scores the first one he probably scores the second as well and comes off with two goals. I was pleased for Jed to get on the scoresheet.

“If we’re going to play like we did today in that first half and win the penalties like we did then we certainly have to be clinical with them.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly