NEIL Harris believes a new mentality is behind Millwall’s unbeaten start to the season after the 10-man Lions defeated Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 on Saturday.
The Lions are level on seven points with four other teams at the top of the Championship after three games.
Matt Smith scored Millwall’s winner in the 37th minute before Jed Wallace was given a straight red card two minutes before the break but the hosts hung on to continue their unbeaten start in all competitions.
“We had a busy window because players went and players came in that I wanted to get in,” Harris said. “Last year wasn’t a good window in August for us. It wasn’t a good August for us because there was a lot of unrest around the majority of my squad [linked with] leaving. When you start losing games, conceding late goals, it becomes a snowball effect and it’s hard to stop.
“We dug in over the course of the season, regrouped over the summer, made the changes I wanted to implement. We’ve got a new group of players, a new mentality in the group. We’ve got a strength of togetherness at the club.
“We’re seeing that in the performances. We weren’t great against Preston, and again we weren’t great today in the first 40 minutes when it was 11 v 11.
“But we were Millwall-like, we were workmanlike, we were dogged and difficult to break down. We were a real threat going forward, down the sides, in behind and aerially. And we scored from the set-play.
“Every week we have to be hard to beat. That’s all I can ask from my players and then add quality as well. Two goals for Matt Smith, two assists from Connor Mahoney. Players off the mark with goals and assists, it’s a positive for us.
“That’s a Millwall result if ever you’re going to get one. You get your noses in front from a set-play in a scrappy affair between two teams that are certainly committed.
“And then the red card changes the game. Sheffield Wednesday had a lot of the ball anyway without really causing us an issue apart from Adam Reach’s, nearly, moment of genius.
“Then you go down to 10 men and you know they’re going to dominate the play, get the ball in the box. In [Steven] Fletcher and [Jordan] Rhodes, when he came on, they’ve got top players. But I would give credit to my players, that was a really strong second half.
“To stand strong against that quality of opponent, in the form they’re in as well, is impressive.
“Bart’s [Bialkowski] made three or four saves low down from the edge of the box, a couple of headers went wide or over, but no meaningful saves I can remember. That’s credit to the team, the blocks we made, the subs that came on made an impact.
“I’m really proud of my players.”
Harris brought in Tom Bradshaw for Smith early in the second half and explained the tactical thinking.
“When you go to 10 men there are various ways you can do it,” Harris said. “We played Leicester here a couple of years ago in the [FA] Cup and went to a 4-3-2 and still got the ball forward. Today I felt it was important that we played in a 4-4-1, if anything to help Mahlon Romeo at right-back against Kadeem Harris.
“I was disappointed to have to take Matty Smith off because he was excellent first half. But chasing around Barry Bannan is not his game, really.
“Tom Bradshaw coming on enabled us to get after the ball still in that middle zone. We’ve played against 10 and got the ball in the box. You just have to defend your box, stand strong, block crosses. If any team is suited to playing against 11 with 10, a back four and a midfield four, it’s us.”
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