BY JAKE SANDERS
Neil Harris was thrilled to give two “Millwall boys” their first-team debuts in Sunday’s defeat at Wigan Athletic.
Joe Garner’s early goal was enough to earn the Latics all three points, but it was two second-half substitutes that this end-of-season contest will be most remembered for.
Firstly, 17-year-old George Alexander – son of former Lions striker Gary – replaced Lee Gregory before Billy Mitchell joined his U18s team-mate, coming on for Shaun Williams.
“I am delighted for the opportunity the young players got,” Harris said. “Young players only get an opportunity when they deserve their opportunity.
“I never feel pressure by the fanbase to play young players. I always pick the team on merit. And if you look at the players I have picked – two 17-year-olds – two real young lads, because between them and the first team, there is such a big gap that we can only play young players that warrant playing.
“If they are not good enough to play in the first team then they won’t be here. They played today because they have been exceptional in the U18s this year. We need to produce better players to play in the first team but that is not just Millwall – that is in English football.
“Those boys haven’t earnt the right to be part of the squad next season, they will have to earn the right next season as well. I thought it was more fitting together to give them the opportunity than players that won’t be here next year.
“I think that is the clear message and everyone will understand that. But it is very pleasing to give two Millwall boys debuts and I hope this is the start for them and they keep progressing.”
Millwall had plenty of chances to end their campaign with at least a point, with Ryan Tunnicliffe missing the best of those, blazing over the bar from close-range.
Harris said: “I quite enjoyed the game, it was quite entertaining wasn’t it? I think as a neutral it was quite entertaining, I think it could have been 4-4. We had chances, we couldn’t score. I think it was summed up by Ryan Tunnicliffe’s open goal miss at the start of the second-half.
“We played a little bit more expansive football, passed the ball a little bit more than we have done probably in the last period. I said to the players about passing the ball. I knew we were going to be a little bit more open and give some chances away, but I wasn’t really fussed about that.
“Some of our football was outstanding at times. We got into really good areas, but didn’t get the ball in the net. ”
PICTURES BY BRIAN TONKS