BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Shaun Williams scored his first goal for the Republic of Ireland last week – and could be set to have some of the defensive shackles taken off at Millwall.
The 31-year-old midfielder pounced on Aaron Ramsey’s loss of control and dinked over Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey at Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday.
It was a special moment for Williams, even if his country lost 4-1 in their opening UEFA Nations League group game.
“I’m really pleased for him,” said Lions manager Neil Harris. “What a fantastic and proud moment for him and his family.
“Willo is a great team man. He’ll be hurting from a poor result and poor team performance. But he has to take personal satisfaction and pride out of a difficult evening [for his country].
“It was a very good finish as well and certainly a moment he’ll never forget.
“He has got real class and composure. He does the hard work to put Ramsey under pressure – taking the risk of stepping out of possession to go and press the ball, but that’s where he is at the moment. He is in great shape – as fit and strong as he has ever looked.
“He has been a consistent performer for us last season, and this one as well.
“He has got good shooting ability. Technically he is one of our best players, he has got good ability in and around the box with both feet.
“When he is playing in midfield with George Saville over the course of the last 15 months, Willo has not always had the opportunity to run forward and showcase that. But he has still been scoring goals each season.
“As we’ve seen recently when Shaun has played with Ryan Tunnicliffe, there might be more opportunity for him to run forward and get the ball. He scores goals and has got timing in the box.
“He’s also a good finisher with his head.”
Williams only got his first Ireland call-up in May despite being one of Millwall’s consistent performers in League One and as they adjusted so smoothly to Championship football.
“He certainly feels he has a lot to offer,” said Harris. “He has been under the radar. His call-up came last season with us performing in the Championship.
“I understand that, national team scouts can only be at a certain amount of games and they want players performing at a certain level. The Premier League and Championship will always be the focus.”
Ireland are back in action tonight in Poland. Aiden O’Brien was an unused substitute against the Welsh.
Shaun Hutchinson saw a knee specialist last week, who has confirmed he faces six weeks on the sidelines.
The Lions centre-back, 29, has missed the last two Championship fixtures.
“It is the same timescale,” said Harris. “You don’t want players missing through injury but there are ones you can’t legislate for – a nothing tackle which the player doesn’t even know he is injured until five or six hours later.
“Hutch is certainly a big loss and a real disappointment for us.”