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Doncaster clean sheet pleases Millwall caretaker manager
3:47pm Monday 30th December 2013 in Sport
By Sam Brown, Lions Live presenter
MILLWALL put in solid performance in front of caretaker managers Neil Harris and Scott Fitzgerald to take a point in yesterday’s 0-0 draw at Doncaster.
Following Steve Lomas’ sacking after the Boxing Day massacre at Watford, Harris and Fitzgerald made five changes from the 4-0 loss to the Hornets and were able to end a run of four defeats away from home.
The Lions had not lost to Doncaster in their previous three encounters at the Keepmoat Stadium, but both clubs headed into the clash at the wrong end of the table having conceded 86 goals already between them.
Millwall looked comfortable and in control throughout the first half, enjoying a number of chances to break the deadlock.
Martyn Woolford went agonisingly close after half an hour and Scott Malone was unlucky not to convert an effort that was marginally off target.
Shane Lowry also had a header cleared off the he line by Neil Cotterill.
David Forde was handed the captain’s armband and continued his great form, palming away efforts from Liam Wakefield and producing a superb save to deny Liam Furman.
Harris hailed the commitment and work-rate of the players afterwards and was pleased with the performance.
He said: “Firstly, I thought the boys were fantastic today.
“A big positive was a clean sheet.
“The fact we have been poor away from home recently and to keep a clean sheet in a vital game was outstanding.
“It gives the boys confidence and a bit of belief, backed up with someone tremendous individual performances.
“I think Shane Lowry certainly at left centre half was outstanding.
“Other then himself, you can go straight through the team to see how good they all were.
“The biggest thing for me was the desire, the commitment and the team spirit was phenomenal.
“That’s all myself and Scott asked of the boys before was to put in that performance.
“With a little bit more quality in the final third and a little bit more luck, we might have come up with the three points.”
A new era for the Lions saw a new shape employed and marked the return of Lowry to partner Mark Beevers in the centre of defence in place of the suspended Danny Shittu.
Alan Dunne and Malone returned to the full-back positions, while Nicky Bailey came into midfield for the injured Liam Trotter alongside Richard Chaplow.
Up front, Scott McDonald was handed a start partnering Steve Morison in a 4-1-3-2 formation.
Harris explained: “We had injuries, suspensions and a change of shape - we just purely picked a team today on what we thought would do a job and be able to perform in a pressure situation.
“We spoke to all the players individually whether they were playing or not and they were all really supportive and we will do the same for New Year’s Day.”
In-form winger Liam Feeney, who has been linked with Bolton, had been missing from the squad and Harris admitted: “Liam is struggling with a hamstring.
“We are waiting to find out how long it will be, whether he has a chance for Wednesday.
“The same with Liam Trotter and Paul Robinson.”
Fred Onyedinma, Alfie Pavey and Sid Nelson travelled north with the squad, with Onyedinma winning a place on the bench.
Harris said: “Fred is an outstanding young player, has huge qualities as a young man and he certainly will be a good Millwall player for the future.
“We also had Sid Nelson and Alfie Pavey from the youth team in the squad as well, not for any other reason than they deserve to be here.
“The shortage of players has elevated that but they are here on their merit.
“Fred deserved to be in squad and has been outstanding for the U21s.”
Following the dismissal of Lomas on Boxing Day, the caretaker managing duo had to work quickly to get the team ready for Sunday’s Doncaster encounter. Harris described his reaction to the previous boss’ exit as “disappointment, sadness because he was a great guy”.
He explained: “Steve worked tirelessly to get it right, it didn't work out and now were responsible to picking the team in a huge game.
“We found out after the Watford game on Boxing Day, we knew then but it’s been a hundred miles per hour.
“So really we have had 24 hours to prepare for the game.
“You don’t get much time before a game, not physically anyway"
“I think the fact myself and Scott have been at the club a long time, and we just care so much about the club, we have been asked to do a privileged position in the short-term and we didn’t want to let anyone down.”
Harris added: “We wanted, firstly, the players to perform and we were nervous for them.
“The attitude that they have shown in the last couple of days has been outstanding and the support they have shown us have been first class.
“We just wanted them to back it up with a performance and for me we had, that other than the (lack of a) goal. We love working for the club.
“For us it’s purely until they bring in the new guy.
“We will do what is asked of us, but when the person comes in we will give him our full support for the future.”
Harris and Fitzgerald are set to be in charge for the Lions’ next game against table-topping Leicester City at The Den on New Year’s Day. “We’ve been told to take care of team affairs until the new appointment is made,” he added.
“As far as we know we are preparing for New Year’s Day.
“We are just preparing one day at a time and looking to the next game.”
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