JED Wallace revealed the moment he felt momentum turned Millwall’s way against Middlesbrough – when he saw his team-mates smiling as the game turned into a “brawl”.
Wallace scored the first goal on Saturday – his fourth of the season – before George Saville made it 2-0 and Millwall survived late pressure to hold on for the win after Stewart Downing’s strike.
The atmosphere in the stadium changed in the first half when the home crowd felt referee Oliver Langford was giving decisions against their side and booked Lee Gregory and Mahlon Romeo within two minutes.
Within eight minutes Millwall were two goals up, and Wallace felt the side had responded to the increased tension and intensity in the stadium.
“I thought the game turned into a bit of a brawl first half, didn’t it, the crowd got right up for it and that’s when I saw a few of the boys in blue shirts smiling, they knew that this was playing right into our hands,” Wallace said. “Tunni [Ryan Tunnicliffe] smashed into a tackle in the corner and we’d scored two goals 10 minutes later.
“We play to our strengths, it’s a very down-to-earth dressing room. We mob in and we want to be playing Championship football, we fully deserve it and we’re showing that.
“It’s a special atmosphere at The Den. We make no bones about it, on paper we should be right down lower than we are. We looked forward to coming up, we earned the right to be in this division and I think we’re proving a lot of people wrong. We just need to replicate our home form away from home.
“We should be seven or eight points higher than we are, but it’s not gone that way. We had to show grit to come back in a tough run of games and to get seven points from the last three, we certainly would have taken that.
“We’re just looking at it a game at a time. We’re spending a lot of time on the training ground analysing other teams. Clubs are spending £45million and that’s not something we can compete with, so we need hard hours of work on the training ground.
“We’re not under any illusion that we’re the best team in the division passing the ball, but if anyone wants a tear-up like happened at one point in the first half then we’re happy to do that. We came out on top.
“We’ve played against a lot of teams with a lot of money and we’ve only lost to Barnsley by more than one goal. It shows how far we’ve come as a group, last year we were drawing home games against Walsall, Chesterfield, Bury, drawing 0-0 and not being very creative.
“This year we’ve played football clubs that should be in the Premier League and we’ve turned them over. We need to do that away from home.”
Millwall’s win on Saturday moved them nine points clear of the relegation zone as they consolidate in their first season back in the Championship.
Wallace feels Millwall and manager Neil Harris sometimes don’t get the credit they deserve.
He explained: “I’ve not seen many clubs that get a relegation form the Championship, then get play-off final, play-off final, FA Cup quarter-final, get promoted and the squad of players and the manager get so little credit.
“You see a lot of the same managers going to the big clubs and we’ve got something here very special. The manager has acquired a group of players that, in terms of football nowadays, have no ego. It’s a group of very normal lads. It’s annoying at the Christmas Party because everyone only wants to spend 20 quid on a night out in London!
“More important here, rather than being a top, top talented player which you see at a lot of clubs at this level, for us it’s the personality of the players that have come in, the likes of Tom Elliott, Ryan Tunnicliffe, they’ve not let anyone down in terms of their attitude. That’s what the punters here want to see.
“When we’ve got the crowd on our side at home we’re a team to be reckoned with, we really believe that. Unfortunately we haven’t put it in the net away from home.”
After a trip to Derby next weekend Millwall are at home on Boxing Day against Wallace’s former club Wolves, where the winger felt he couldn’t produce his best form.
“You’re only as good as the opportunities you get, I don’t think I started more than two games in a row for Wolves. It was hard for me to get that momentum,” Wallace said. “I’m an honest lad, I play to my strengths and that’s front-foot football, running in behind. That’s what the manager wants from me.
“I enjoy it, it’s an old-school football club, a bit of a throwback with the style of play and the atmosphere, the old-stadium atmosphere similar to Portsmouth, so it’s something I’m familiar with. I’m really enjoying living in London and playing football for Millwall.”
Image: Millwall FC