Jed Wallace on why Millwall’s win at Derby was more important than reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals and playing in a new role

BY JAKE SANDERS

Jed Wallace was the goalscoring hero for Millwall on Wednesday night – then admitted beating Derby County held priority over reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals.

The Lions host Brighton next month in the last eight of the FA Cup with a victory setting up another trip to Wembley.

But Wallace stressed how important it is for both himself and the club to be playing at Championship level for the foreseeable future.

The 25-year-old netted the only goal of the game at Pride Park in midweek to earn the South Londoners their first league victory since New Year’s Day and open up a five-point gap on the relegation zone in the process.

“The manager was saying how important Saturday was in the cup – but for the changing room we knew that Wednesday was bigger,” Wallace said.

“In my head, I would have taken a win against Derby over Saturday – even if that is unromantic.

“The reality is, I want to be playing Championship football for the rest of my career at the very minimum – and this is where the club needs to be.

“It is a really positive changing room right now. We have been hurting a lot this year, because we have been throwing away so many points.

“And you’re not hurting for 10 minutes. The lads have been down in the dumps a few times, for a couple of days. Because we care. I think the fans know we care. We got over the line today and it feels like a positive step for us in the right direction.”

With Tom Elliott still not fit to play from the start, Wallace played a more advanced role than usual at Pride Park, sitting just behind Lee Gregory in a 4-4-1-1 formation – and praised Neil Harris for getting his tactics spot on.

He continued: “It was a different role for me tonight and I knew that my biggest attribute playing in that position was my ability to run in behind, which is obviously different from what we have with T [Tom Elliott] and Moro [Steve Morison]. They give us that focal point. With me and Gregs [Lee Gregory], it’s different. Greggers does so much. He has no right to win the first ball. He wins it, rides a tackle, knocks it off and the one person we want in that position is Fergie to pick me out and I have taken it on my left and obviously gone in. I am buzzing!

Millwall’s Jed Wallace (left) celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game with team-mates during the Sky Bet Championship match at Pride Park, Derby.

“The manager got it bang on today. He said to me to get around [Tom] Huddlestone. Obviously, he’s an unbelievable player with the ball, but without it I was able to use my legs against him. It didn’t really happen that way because I couldn’t get near him to be honest. But I just stayed in there. It was a typical Millwall performance under Neil Harris. We rode the pressure and I can’t really remember them having a chance. It’s no surprise we are picking up points – whether it’s wins or not – because Hutch [Shaun Hutchinson] and Coops [Jake Cooper] are showing the form of last season.”

The clean sheet was Millwall’s fourth in five games in all competitions, but more remarkably, their first on the road in the league since their goalless draw at Blackburn Rovers in back in early August.

“I can understand the fans frustration because we have not been playing the most fluent football we have ever played, and I understand they want to come and see goals,” Wallace said. “We were shipping too many goals and we had to get back to basics. Drawing 0-0 and winning 1-0 is what we have built our success on over the last couple of years and we have definitely got back to that.

“If we carry on this form for the rest of the end of the season, then we will be where we want to end up at the end of the year.

“In the big games away from home – Norwich and Middlesbrough – we have played so well in spells and thrown away points. I have never played in a season where we have thrown away more points. I am sure all the teams down the bottom will say that, but we have thrown away so many points.

“The last three games Gregs missed a great chance at Rotherham, Coops [Jake Cooper] at Swansea and we gave away a last-minute penalty at Middlesbrough. It sums us up really. It feels like such a relief to get over the line in a really, really difficult place to come. Hopefully now we can push up the table for the rest of the season.”

With Tom Elliott still not fit to play from the start, Wallace played a more advanced role than usual at Pride Park, sitting just behind Lee Gregory in a 4-4-1-1 formation.

The ex-Wolves man praised manager Neil Harris for getting his tactics spot on.

He continued: “It was a different role for me and I knew that my biggest attribute playing in that position was my ability to run in behind, which is obviously different from what we have with T [Tom Elliott] and Moro [Steve Morison].

“They give us that focal point. With me and Gregs [Lee Gregory], it’s different. Greggers does so much. He has no right to win the first ball. He wins it, rides a tackle, knocks it off and the one person we want in that position is Fergie to pick me out and I have taken it on my left and obviously it’s gone in. I am buzzing about it.

“The manager got it bang on today [Wednesday]. He said to me to get around [Tom] Huddlestone.

“Obviously, he’s an unbelievable player with the ball. I couldn’t get near him, to be honest. But I just stayed in there.

“It was a typical Millwall performance under Neil Harris. We rode the pressure and I can’t really remember them having a chance. It’s no surprise we are picking up points – whether it’s wins or not – because Hutch [Shaun Hutchinson] and Coops [Jake Cooper] are showing the form of last season.”

The clean sheet was Millwall’s fourth in five games in all competitions but, more remarkably, their first on the road in the league since their goalless draw at Blackburn Rovers back in early August.

“I can understand the fans frustration because we have not been playing the most fluent football we have ever played, and I understand they want to come and see goals,” Wallace said.

“We were shipping too many goals and we had to get back to basics. Drawing 0-0 and winning 1-0 is what we have built our success on over the last couple of years and we have definitely got back to that.

“If we carry on this form for the rest of the season, then we will be where we want to end up at the end of the year.

“In the big games away from home – Norwich and Middlesbrough – we have played so well in spells and thrown away points. I have never played in a season where we have thrown away more points.

“I am sure all the teams down the bottom will say that, but we have thrown away so many points.

“The last three games Gregs missed a great chance at Rotherham, Coops [Jake Cooper] had one at Swansea and we gave away a last-minute penalty at Middlesbrough. It sums us up,  really.

“It feels like such a relief to get over the line at a really, really difficult place to come. Hopefully now we can push up the table for the rest of the season.”

Wallace has reacted to the FA Cup quarter-final draw after Millwall were drawn to play Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion at The Den next month.

He said: “It’s ideal. I saw Wolves and Watford away come out and I was thinking ‘I can imagine us going there, giving it our all and getting beat 1-0’.

“Those games take care of themselves – Leeds at home abd Everton at home. Every Millwall player plays well in those games, because the crowd carry you through.

“The games that matter are Rotherham United at home, tonight’s match and  the nitty-gritty games that you have to create an atmosphere in the changing room for yourself.

“We have done that recently. We know it’s been a little bit short in a couple of home games, but Saturday we will be looking to go one better.”


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