BY MAX HALL
Millwall defender Murray Wallace says he has been working on his crossing since the return of Shaun Hutchinson to central defence has forced him out wide, into the left-back position.
The Glaswegian stopper caught the eye with two dangerous crosses in the opening quarter of Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Brentford – the second creating one of the Lions’ best chance of the afternoon as Jake Cooper glanced a header wide.
“It’s something we practise all the time in training – crossing and finishing,” said the former Scunthorpe centre-half, “I’ve been doing a bit of crossing instead of trying to head it into the net, it’s something I’ve been working on.”
Millwall faded after that bright opening though, and had no response to Sergi Canos’ 48th-minute opener before Ollie Watkins’ second goal – five minutes from time – extended the Lions’ miserable record of two points on the road this season.
Asked why Neil Harris’ side can’t get a result away from the Den, Wallace said: “I’m not too sure. I think we’re conceding quite soft goals, I wouldn’t say we’re playing terribly away.
“Look at the game against Reading. We’ve absolutely battered them and we conceded three goals, and that’s probably where you look at it and say we’ve conceded quite soft goals. Nottingham Forest, I thought we battered them as well, and scored two quite good goals, but I wouldn’t say it’s a lack of desire or performance. I think just, mentally, we need to be a bit stronger, and focus on clean sheets.
“The last thing we want to do is to be going into games thinking ‘oh, it’s an away game and we’re going to be under pressure’ or whatever, we’ve just got to treat it like another game.
“We’ve got massive belief in ourselves, and confidence – especially from playing at home – we just need to carry that confidence into away games.
“Like I said, we’re conceding soft goals, we just need to clamp down a little on that on the road and keep trying to improve our performances. I don’t think our performances have been terrible, but there’s obviously room for improvement.”
Millwall boss Harris had called for a halt to the concession of cheap corners and fouls, and for bodies to be put on the line, and Wallace said his team-mates had delivered, even if the result was not what the visitors wanted at Griffin Park, as the back line was undone by two exquisite Neal Maupay passes.
“I think you look at quite a lot of the goals that we conceded, unusually they seem to come from set-pieces,” said the former Huddersfield player, of the away games played before the weekend. “That’s something we pride ourselves on: that we’re not going to concede from set-plays, and I think that’s what [the manager is] referring to, switching on from those scenarios, I think we did to an extent [against Brentford], I don’t think we had free headers or anything like that from set-plays.
“I thought we did okay, without creating many chances, I don’t think we really imposed ourselves on the game.
“They had a lot of possession and dominated but for all that, with all the possession that they had, I didn’t think they were carving us open. We had quite good shape, especially in the first half, limiting their chances. But obviously we conceded a goal early in the second half, and starting to try and get into the game opened us up a bit more.”
There is no respite for the travel-sick Lions, who on Saturday visit a Norwich side that will be bouncing after winning 4-0 at Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend. Wallace warned against reading too much into the recent form of opponents, however, as Saturday’s defeat to Brentford starkly illustrated.
“You look at these,” he said at Griffin Park. “They haven’t won in something like eight or nine games, or whatever, so you think it’s a perfect time to play them, but it’s not like that at all.
“[Norwich’s] confidence will be high, you’ve just got to look at it as an away game that we need to pick up points from.
“Obviously its massive at The Den,” added the stopper of his side’s recent uptick in results at home. “We’ve got quite good form there at the moment, but it’s so important that we start picking up points on the road, we can’t just be picking up points at home, we need to take points and keep clean sheets away from home.”
The Scot said the importance of a first away win cannot be underestimated, after the stratospheric turnaround in Millwall’s results last season following their Elland Road victory had been noted across the Football League.
“I wasn’t here last year for that,” he said. “Bbut keeping your eye on other teams, it did stand out when they won something like six games in a row and got loads of clean sheets, so obviously that’s something… we’re hoping one result will start lots.”