Highlights - Arsenal 0-0 Villarreal (Agg 2-1)May 6
Neil Harris senses a change of atmosphere at Millwall
Jed Wallace’s strike gave them victory.
Millwall boss Neil Harris feels there is a change of atmosphere with the Lions after they roared to an opening-day 1-0 victory over Preston.
A disappointing 2018/19 saw Millwall finish just one place above the Championship relegation zone – prompting Harris to reshape his squad over the summer with eight new signings.
Four of those players started at the Den and one, Connor Mahoney, created the only goal of the game after 33 minutes by working a yard of space and picking out Jed Wallace to volley past Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd.
Chances for a second goal to kill off the game were missed but the home boss was still ecstatic with his new-look Lions laying down an early marker.
“The team were in complete control,” said Harris “Correct me if I’m wrong but I can’t remember my goalkeeper making a save.
“There was a different feel (to last season), I’ve got a different group of lads. What was special was the group that’s building in that changing room got to play in and witness that atmosphere. That was quite phenomenal.
“It surprised me but it was great and I was delighted for the fans. The fact we finished last season with disappointment, relief in the end, and over the course of the summer the excitement has grown because of the acquisitions that we’ve made.
“I see the lads every day, how good they’ve been and the standards they’ve set. You just hope they perform in the first game and now the challenge is to put it into practice again next week at West Brom.”
Millwall even weathered the loss of goalkeeper Frank Fielding just before half-time as a fifth debutant – Bartosz Bialkowski, who joined earlier this week on loan from Ipswich – ably filled in off the bench.
“I thought we dealt with the Frank Fielding situation really well,” added Harris. “When you can bring on Bart Bialkowski, wow!
“Player of the year at Ipswich year after year, experience at this level and he came on like he’d played 300 games for Millwall.”
Alan Browne’s first-half strike that was cleared off the line and Sean Maguire’s curling effort that whistled just past the post was the closest Preston came to grabbing an equaliser.
And boss Alex Neil admits his side must find a way to improve.
“I don’t think there was much in the way of chances for either team – apart from the goal, Declan (Rudd) only had one other save to make so it wasn’t a great game,” said Neil.
“We didn’t do enough, it was a very average performance from us. We didn’t create enough chances, we are frustrated for the fans, they will be disappointed.
“We always knew it was going to be tough game. Millwall turn the ball up to (Matt) Smith, they get round it, play for second balls, put it wide, get balls into the box and put you under pressure.
“That is exactly what happened and in the first half, we didn’t deal with it well enough.
“Smith caused us real problems and runners through the middle of the pitch caused us issues – (Jed) Wallace coming in off the line, (Aiden) O’Brien going behind and when that happens, Millwall gain momentum and the fans get behind them.
“We will go away and look to perform much better in the next game.”