Millwall's former Scunthorpe defender inspired by international team-mate

MURRAY Wallace is hoping he can maintain his good Millwall form to catch the eye of Scotland boss Alex McLeish.

Wallace, 25, has four Scotland under-21 caps, gained while he was a Huddersfield Town player and when Jordan Archer was a Tartan Army underage team-mate.

Wallace, who has been playing slightly out of position as a right-sided centre-back this season, has started six out of 11 league games for Millwall since his summer move from Scunthorpe.

The Glasgow-born defender opened his goal account for his new club against Swansea after Shaun Hutchinson had been ruled out through injury. But then he lost his place to Byron Webster, before returning to partner Jake Cooper for the last two games as the Lions picked up four points.

He has seen Shaun Williams and Aiden O'Brien called up by the Republic of Ireland and both got their first goals for their country during the last international break.

Wallace revealed during the summer that the ambition of a Scotland call-up was a factor in his decision to join Millwall.

"That was one of the main reasons, as well as just wanting to move up a level to play in the Championship," he said. "Playing in this division puts you in the window for Scotland. I haven't heard anything but I'll just keep working hard and if I keep playing at this level hopefully I'll get a call-up.

"I take a lot of belief from the players in the squad that have been called up to their national teams. It's great to see them and they've been doing brilliantly, Aiden scoring a goal on his debut was fantastic.

"There is certainly so much more quality at this level, there are players who are more explosive and tidy when they get it to their feet. But I want to be playing against the best players, it's always a good test.

"Hutch has been unlucky picking up an injury but he's going to be coming back fit. There's good competition there. We've got real quality in the centre of defence, and that's better because you strive more for the team and spurs people on to perform to their best.

"Being naturally left-footed and playing on the right there are slight adjustments. The gaffer has just basically told me to stick to what I'm good at, defending and just keeping things simple.

"I feel Jake and I have got a good relationship at the back. I've said that you can spend a lot of time on the training pitch and getting to know the players but there are certainly things that you can only learn and develop from when they happen in games. Playing competitive games is where you learn the most."

Wallace has also had to get used to a different style of play at Millwall. Scunthorpe had a higher average possession in his two seasons at Glanford Park, compared to Millwall allowing teams to have more of the ball before breaking quickly and then playing in the opponents' half.

The Lions also come up against more sides who play one lone striker with deeper support players.

"It's important to squeeze the lines as a team," Wallace said, explaining how his side counteracts it. "When teams play one up front against us sometimes the back four can feel that we're not helping as much because there's only one up against us. Sometimes you want to push on and help the rest of the team out, but that's where it's important you keep lines together and make sure there's not big gaps for opponents to get in pockets and run at you.

"There were a couple of changes in my time at Scunthorpe in terms of the way we wanted to play but there were similar aspects, like trying to stretch the game and when we did that then play.

"Millwall are quite a direct team, we have the strengths in the side to make that work and we're obviously going to use them."

It worked in the last game against Aston Villa, when Millwall delivered one of their best performances of the season, against a side packed with Premier League experience, to come away with three points for the first time in nine games.

Wallace said: "It's massive for us, especially after the run we had been on. Not necessarily that performances hadn't been great but the results hadn't followed. It was good to get an away point [at Nottingham Forest] and a good three points at home.

"It's part of any football team. When I was with Scunthorpe we did really well but we still had a couple of patches where we had a bad run. What gets you out of it is digging deep and working hard and believing that the results will improve.

"That's what we want to do, and to get some clean sheets and get on a good run.

"A couple of times we have switched off, and then there were goals at Forest where you feel a bit unlucky and hard-done-by.

"It's just getting into that mentality of defending as a team and ensuring concentration levels are high. A clean sheet for defenders is as good as goals for strikers. That's our bread and butter, so we're aiming to keep more clean sheets."

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly