Half-time tac­ti­cal change pays div­i­dends for Har­ris

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By James Ayles

MILL­WALL boss Neil Har­ris iden­ti­fied a half­time tac­ti­cal switch as the cat­a­lyst for his side’s im­pres­sive vic­tory over Cham­pi­onship high-fly­ers Sh­effield United at The Den.

The Lions took an early lead through Lee Gre­gory, but David Brooks’ vol­ley re­stored par­ity be­fore Mahlon Romeo and Jake Cooper struck in the sec­ond half.

The Blades re­main in third, while Mill­wall ended a six-match win­less run and moved up to 18th, seven points clear of the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

De­spite tak­ing the lead, Har­ris be­lieves his team were lucky to reach half-time on equal terms.

“They showed why they are in the top three in the di­vi­sion and rightly so they got back on level terms,” said Har­ris.

“We had a co­nun­drum at half­time. Do we leave it as it is and hope that we get back in the game and our 4-4-2 shape dic­tates play? Or do we change it?

“We made a brave de­ci­sion to change to a 3-5-2 to match them up and you’ve got ten min­utes to do it and try and get mes­sages to play­ers.

“Then you put them out there and you say, ‘Okay, you’ve got to learn your­selves, you’re go­ing to have to ad­just what you do’.

“The play­ers were out­stand­ing. They’re never go­ing to let me down on ef­fort, de­ter­mi­na­tion, de­sire to play for this club, and to­day there were some real mo­ments of qual­ity as well.”

Mill­wall started the brighter, but the vis­tors had the first shot when John Lund­stram’s strike de­flected wide off his own player. Brooks then went down in the box af­ter lead­ing a Blades break­away, but was cau­tioned for div­ing.

Mill­wall’s bright start was re­warded when a Gre­gory flickon re­leased Jed Wal­lace down the right, and he cut in­side and fed Steve Mori­son. Gre­gory ex­pertly con­trolled Mori­son’s re­turn pass and fired across goal into the net.

Good work from Chris Basham saw Jor­dan Archer save from Brooks’ weak shot as Sh­effield looked for an in­stant re­ply.

Mill­wall al­most dou­bled their lead from James Mered­ith’s long throw, but a fly­ing Ja­mal Black­man de­nied Ge­orge Sav­ille.

On 40 min­utes, Mark Duffy clipped a beau­ti­ful cross-field ball for Brooks to vol­ley home the equaliser at the far post.

With 25 min­utes to go, Gre­gory dis­pos­sessed a Blades de­fender and fed the ad­vanc­ing Romeo, who beat Black­man to fire the hosts ahead.

Wal­lace then danced through the Blades’ de­fence, but his toe­poke was de­flected be­hind.

Cooper should have added a third but failed to con­nect with Shane Fer­gu­son’s invit­ing free­kick from the right, but Mill­wall con­tin­ued to con­trol the game and pushed for an­other to kill of the con­test.

The de­served third came with three min­utes left to seal an im­pres­sive vic­tory. Cooper rose high­est to meet Wal­lace’s in­swing­ing free-kick and his header hit the bar and just crept over the line.

Blades boss Chris Wilder felt his team were out­fought and de­served to lose.

He said: “The blame 100 per cent lies with me and the team. We haven’t done enough to win.

“This game wasn’t won tac­ti­cally, it was won be­cause they got to more first and sec­ond balls from the off. When we got to grips with that, we didn’t pun­ish them when we were on top. We made a mis­take, noth­ing tac­ti­cal.

“For 20 min­utes we didn’t find the sec­ond goal, which we should have done. We make a mis­take, they score and we’re chas­ing the game.

“They scored the third when we gave a ridicu­lous free-kick away. You have to un­der­stand it’s com­ing into the box, they have some big boys, they’re a threat at set-pieces, so don’t give a free­kick away, stay on your feet.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

ALL SMILES: Jake Cooper cel­e­brates scor­ing Mill­wall’s third goal, inset

KEY MOMENT: Mahlon Romeo puts Mill­wall into the lead

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