Millwall are looking to claim a third successive Premier League scalp in the Emirates FA Cup this season, as Neil Harris’ men host Leicester City on Saturday. And having netted against both Bournemouth and Watford, star striker Steve Morison is in bullish mood ahead of this cup cracker.
Ladbrokes News chatted exclusively with the Lions hitman, talking tactics, the “12th man” that is The Den faithful, and why Millwall aren’t so much ‘underdogs’ as ‘Labradors’. Over to the fans’ favourite…
Ladbrokes News: You’ve knocked out two Premier League sides already in this season’s Emirates FA Cup. How much confidence has that given the squad?
Steve Morison: That’s definitely given us a big lift, but it’s been part of a bigger run. We’re now 11 games unbeaten in all competitions, and we’re looking to make that 12 against Port Vale in midweek to ensure we keep that momentum going into the Leicester game.
Both Bournemouth and Watford brought sides they thought were good enough to beat us, and they weren’t. And having beaten those sides without conceding a goal, we go into Saturday’s game full of confidence.
LN: What impressed you most about Millwall’s performances in both games?
SM: I thought our attitude was exceptional, and we also showed a lot of quality. We’re renowned for our hard work, keeping our shape well and not giving other teams an inch. But we also played some excellent football in both games, and deservedly won on both occasions.
LN: You netted the opener in the 3-0 victory against Bournemouth and the winner against Watford. As a striker, is there anything you do differently when facing Premier League opposition, to how you’d set up in a League One match?
SM: No, but they’re obviously different – and tougher – games because the top-flight sides tend to have a lot of the ball. But that’s something we’re used to, to an extent, because we don’t play a high-possession game in the league.
I’ve been enjoying playing Prem teams, and I’ve actually found the games quite comfortable. They’re not as physical as the games we have in the league, so it’s more about bringing your quality to the fore.
LN: Millwall are on a terrific run at The Den right now, with six wins and a draw in the last seven games at home. What do you think has made the side so successful on your own patch?
SM: We had a bit of a sticky patch at home before this run, with just one win in four at home – but now everyone’s really pulled together. The players, the fans and the staff are all singing off the same hymn sheet at the minute, and that’s paying dividends on the pitch.
We’re thoroughly enjoying playing at The Den right now, and long may it continue!
LN: You’ve mentioned the fans there. Crowds of over 9,000 turned out for the Bournemouth and Watford games. How big a part can they play this weekend?
SM: They’re fantastic. When they turn out in numbers and are in a positive frame of mind, it’s an enormous lift for us. They really are like a 12th man, and I’m sure they’ll turn out in their droves on Saturday and get behind us. Hopefully we can reward them by knocking another Premier League team out!
LN: As for Leicester, they’ve lost seven of their last 11 games on the road, but do possess some quality players. What do you see as their strengths, and also the areas where Millwall can really hurt them?
SM: There’s no doubt they’re a very good team. They’re just off the back of winning the Premier League, and I’m sure they’ll look at this game as a potential confidence-boosting win to try and kick on in the league.
That means we need to get stuck in and not give them a sniff of anything which will boost their morale. They won’t get an inch of space – that’s something we’re very good at.
So we need to get on the front foot in terms of intensity, and if we do that, I think we can hurt them with our creative attacking play. Right now they’re having a bad patch of form, and I think we can prey on that fragility when they come to The Den.
LN: In games against Premier League sides, it’s common not to have that much of the play when you’re the underdog. But Millwall have conceded just once in the last seven games. Do you think you can stand firm and keep them out?
SM: As I said, we don’t have a great deal of the ball in most games. The manager [Neil Harris] likes us to sit in our shape, be disciplined and hard to break down – and they’re qualities which will help us in a game like this.
It’s a tactical thing. I’d never say we have low possession stats in a game because we’re struggling to get the ball off the opposition, or they’re much better than us – that’s just how we set up, and it’s worked pretty well for us this season.
So I’m not worried about Leicester having a lot of the ball. We’ll use it positively when we’re in possession.
LN: Millwall made it all the way to the FA Cup Final back in 2004. Could the class of 2017 make it to Wembley for a Semi-Final? Or even repeat the feat of reaching the Final?
SM: You never say ‘never’. The old cliché applies – ‘one game at a time’. Right now, we’ve got the champions of England coming to our home. So we need to concentrate fully on that game right now.
If we beat them, we’re just 90 minutes away from a game at Wembley. So if we can get the win on Saturday, I’ll allow myself to start thinking about playing there!
LN: I know you’re keen on your greyhound racing and own a number of greyhounds. So, if this Millwall team was a dog, what breed would you be?
SM: We’d be a Labrador. We’re a really honest and loyal bunch of lads, and that’s a key characteristic of Labradors. But we’ve also got a nasty bite. Pound-for-pound, I think they’ve got the strongest jaw of any breed of dog, so hopefully we can bare our teeth in this cup tie!
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing