GORDON Strachan must feel that he can’t win whether he sticks or twists. In an attempt to bring greater stability to a backline that had shipped three goals in Slovakia, the Scotland manager went with a different goalkeeper and three new defenders for Friday night’s game against England. It must have been maddeningly frustrating, then, when the outcome turned out to be exactly the same.

Still, there were some positives to be gleaned from certain elements of the defensive display, in particular that of Lee Wallace who, despite captaining Rangers every week, is only considered third in line for Scotland at left-back. In a position where Strachan has a decent array of options, Wallace was called upon at Wembley following injuries to both Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney and did his reputation no harm at all. The sort of player who likes to study and analyse his every involvement, Wallace felt he perhaps should have done better at England’s second goal when Adam Lallana was able to get free to steer a header beyond Craig Gordon. If that was a slight black mark against Wallace’s name, then the positives included his run and cross early in the second half that should have been converted by James Forrest for an equalising goal.

Strachan, unprompted, offered up words of praise for Wallace, on what was the occasion of his first competitive appearance for his country in three years. The defender modestly accepted news of the comments even if the defeat overshadowed any personal tribute.

“If [Strachan] has said those things then I will look at that and be very proud about hearing something like that from the manager,” said the 29 year-old. “But while it’s nice I’m really gutted and disappointed about the scoreline. For the hard work and the effort that the lads have put I feel it was an unjust result. I’m really appreciative of those words but gutted at the result.

“Even though I had nine caps I had never played against the level of player England have. It was a tough challenge, not having started under the manager, but beforehand I was determined not to use any of that as excuses. I didn’t want to look at these wee things. I wanted to rise to the challenge, come in and do as best as I can. What I do realise is that we were weaker as a squad without Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney. Those two guys are going to be the future of that position for our country so we were really disappointed to lose those guys. Having said that I was happy to come in and do my best.”

Tierney and Robertson should both be fit again by the time Scotland play their next game at home to Slovenia in March and Wallace admitted he would not be surprised to be shunted down the pecking order once more.

“I think I’ve been fortunate enough to come in and be involved in this game,” he added. “I didn’t know I was going to start. We had Stephen Kingsley in the squad and Charlie Mulgrew was also called in, so I was never taking anything for granted. Before the squad was announced, I said these guys [Tierney and Robertson] are going to be the future in this position for our country.

“You’ve seen the rise of them over the last year, the last two or three years in the case of Andy Robertson. If I’m still named in squads I’ll be hungry to push them all the way, but we know their quality and that they’re going to go on to bigger and better things at the age they’re at. These guys are top players and are going to be the future at the left-back position for the country.”

Conceding three goals from headers never looks good for any defence and Wallace vowed to review the footage to see what lessons could be learned.

“It was a new-look defence and again these things you could use as an excuse, but we’re not going to do that,” he added. “I think they were three quite soft goals. There were things, when we look at it again, we can probably do better at. The back four and the goalkeeper will look at those moments and try to be better for it. The fact that we’ve been together for the first time is just one of those things you have to deal with as a footballer.

“I could have maybe got a wee bit closer to Lallana for the header and I’ll look at that. In saying that, I felt we created enough chances in the game but the quality of player they have has changed it at crucial times. They have good players and they have punished us with three good headers.”

Wallace praised the performance of Forrest, the Old Firm rivals combining well on Scotland’s left wing. “We’ve played against each other domestically and I thought there was a reasonably good link-up,” added the Rangers man. “Some of the things you saw were things we’d spoken about. James we know is a good one versus one dribbler. He’s at the top of his game domestically with Celtic, he can go inside and outside. He’s been involved in a number of top games this season and in the Champions League. We caw his quality out there on the Wembley pitch. It was nice to play alongside him.”