Mark Lillis ready to cook up winning recipe as Huddersfield Town take on Crystal Palace

KEEN cook Mark Lillis is combining ingredients gained from throughout his varied football career to come up with a winning recipe ahead of tonight’s tasty home clash with Crystal Palace.

Huddersfield Town press conference - Caretaker Manager Mark Lillis and Peter Clarke

KEEN cook Mark Lillis is combining ingredients gained from throughout his varied football career to come up with a winning recipe ahead of tonight’s tasty home clash with Crystal Palace.

Huddersfield Town’s caretaker manager (and academy chief) celebrated the encouraging 1-1 FA Cup fourth-round draw against Leicester by preparing a Sunday roast for all the family.

Now he’s drawing on tips gained from Graham Taylor, Mick Buxton and Sammy McIlroy, among others, as he tries to cook up a plan which will bring a first three-point haul in 13 Championship games and ease fears of being drawn into a relegation battle.

And the 53-year-old former Town player, who looks like being in the dug-out for Saturday’s trip to another of his old clubs Derby, has called on fans to put speculation over the club’s next boss on the back burner and focus on the next two matches.

“The chairman is busy with the search for a new manager, but he has indicated it could take a week or so, and he has told me I could well be in charge at Derby,” said Lillis.

“I had a spell as a player there under Arthur Cox, and as a coach when John Gregory was manager, and they are two great people to have worked with.

“I go back to the seventies as a Town player, when Tom Johnston signed me and then Mick Buxton came along and really got the club back on its feet.

“Then I’ve been lucky enough to play under Billy McNeill at Manchester City and Graham Taylor at Aston Villa and work alongside Sammy McIroy (for Macclesfield, Stockport, Morecambe a and Northern Ireland) and Brian Laws (at Scunthorpe).

“I’ve picked up bits and pieces from all of them and now I’m trying to combine everything, just like when I sprinkled garlic, rosemary and salt on that leg of lamb on Sunday.”

While that lunch was digesting, Lillis was watching DVDs of Palace to make sure he and his players are up to speed on a side Town held to a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park last month.

“It’s been a busy few days,” smiled Lillis, who was handed caretaker duties on Thursday afternoon and immediately called on the services of development chief Steve Eyre and academy coach Frankie Bunn.

“One of the main things I’ve done is to have a one-to-one chat with each of the lads, so that they know where I’m coming from and I know a bit more about them as people as well as players.

“We’ve had a couple of team meetings too, although I think they’re getting tired of hearing about my cooking!”

Lillis also revealed he has taken inspiration from former England and Villa coach Steve Harrison, who was at Saturday’s Leicester cup-tie as a scout for Millwall.

“Steve liked nothing better than a bit of banter with the lads, but when you went onto the training ground, you were there to work, and it’s the same with me,” he said.

Keith Southern (Achilles) is certainly ruled out against promotion-chasing Palace and Joel Lynch (hamstring) is a doubt.

But Lillis is delighted to have on-loan Leicester duo Jermaine Beckford and Neil Danns back in the frame after they were ineligible against their parent club in the cup.

“They are senior players with quality and experience, and it’s good to have them back, even though it gives me a few things to think about regarding selection,” added Lillis.

“But I’m not afraid to make those kind of decisions, and any players left out will be told my reasons face to face.

“The target is to get three points tonight, then three points at Derby on Saturday, and while I realise the supporters are keen to know of any developments regarding the managerial situation, it’s crucial that we all focus on the matches coming up and the six points which are available.”

Town fought out a 1-1 draw with Palace at Selhurst Park last month and Lillis knows another test is on the cards.

“They have power, pace and quality throughout, and obviously two very good wingers in Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie,” he added.

“But we put up a good performance at their place, and if we replicate the effort, desire and passion shown on Saturday, we’ll have a decent chance.”

 
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