NEIL Harris admitted Blackburn Rovers were the better side in the second half of Millwall’s 2-0 defeat on Saturday – but insisted his team were denied a “stonewall” penalty at Ewood Park.
Derrick Williams’s first-half opener was added to by Bradley Dack’s goal after the break and only for Bart Bialkowski making a string of saves it could have been an even worse afternoon for Millwall.
The defeat to Tony Mowbray’s side was Millwall’s second in the league this season.
“First half we were the better team, we controlled a lot of the possession,” Harris said. “We worked hard during the international break on controlling the ball and around the ball.
“I was a little bit surprised by Blackburn’s formation, changing to a five at the back. They made it difficult for us in the final third to create the chances.
“I’m disappointed with the goal we conceded. I was very disappointed to be behind at half-time, I thought it was unjust, we didn’t deserve to be behind.
“It’s a great strike by a centre-half from 25 yards but we should do better in the lead-up to it.
“Second half Blackburn were better than us. When teams are better than you, you need to stay in the game, stay in the game. When the game’s 1-0 you’ve always got a chance with attacking players on the pitch, even if you have to ride your luck.
“But we give a really poor second goal away. Players have to do what instructions are given to them, not what they want to do.
“We didn’t anticipate well enough in the final third in the last 15, 20 minutes to play around big Smithy [Matt Smith]. Ultimately we couldn’t get back into the game.”
Millwall had early chances, with Ryan Leonard and Mahlon Romeo testing Christian Walton with shots from outside the box.
Harris added: “I thought we started well and when you start well you want to get in front. The home team come back into it and you have to get a foothold in the game again. The last 20 minutes of the first half we were the better team without clear-cut chances.
“That’s the difference between teams at this level: Their centre-half puts the ball in the bottom corner from 25 yards; We have three shots from in and around the penalty area and don’t score. That’s not knocking my players, that’s just the difference, that’s the fine lines. In the final third they created four or five good opportunities on the counter-attack, we counter-attack and we don’t get the opportunities.
“I thought we were a little bit scruffy around the penalty area and ultimately that’s what costs money in this division. We have to keep working and keep trying to improve.
“You’d have to ask Tony how many times he’s played a back five at this club, it’s probably very rare. I’ve never known him to do it here, so he’s caught us by surprise, definitely. I thought we adjusted really well."
Six minutes before Dack scored his side’s second goal, Harris felt referee Dean Whitehouse “bottled” a penalty decision.
Harris explained: “In the 68th minute, and I’ve seen it back from two different angles, we’ve got a stonewall penalty from a set-piece when the game’s at 1-0. The referee talks to Sam Gallagher on marking Jake Cooper, Jake gets a run and the player’s on the wrong side and manhandles him to the ground. It was almost a rugby tackle.
“The referee is seven yards away and doesn’t give it. For me he bottles it. He has to give that decision, what’s the point of talking to the player? What game are we playing here?
“We’re a team that’s physical and aggressive, we get the ball forward. We play to win set-plays. When you win them you need some help.”
Image: Millwall FC