DAVID MARSHALL will tonight try to achieve what amounts to the Holy Grail for Scottish goalkeepers.
Just two of his international predecessors between the posts have claimed a clean sheet at Wembley against the Auld Enemy since the Second World War.
Considering Scotland have played under either the Twin Towers or Arch 24 times during those 71 years, a shut-out against Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling et al would represent a notable achievement.
Judging by Marshall’s impressive display for Hull City last weekend, it is not beyond the realms of possibility, either, with the 31-year-old pulling off a string of fine saves in the 2-1 win over Southampton.
After a difficult start to life at the KCOM Stadium for the £5m August arrival, the three points were a welcome turn of events after his first five league outings had all ended in defeat.
Sixteen goals had also been conceded in those matches, something that Mike Phelan admitted did lead to him at one stage pondering whether to take Marshall out of the firing line.
“I did, yes,” said the Tigers chief when asked about whether there had been a chance of Eldin Jakupovic, so impressive in last month’s League Cup win at Bristol City, being recalled at the expense of the man who will tonight line up against England.
“You have got to. You have to look at it and analyse why these things are happening. It was unfortunate that Jakupovic came out (of the team) when he did but I had to make that call.
“I had invested in Marshall and I felt he was the goalkeeper who could kick us on a bit. He has been unfortunate because we played all the top teams and he suffered through that.”
Phelan’s faith was rewarded with a goalkeeping master-class that went a long way towards claiming those three precious points against Southampton.
Marshall stood firm under heavy pressure at the end of both halves, Charlie Austin being denied a second goal of the afternoon on no less than three occasions by the agility of the Tigers goalkeeper.
It was a display reminiscent of the ones that had sparked Hull’s interest in the Cardiff goalkeeper during the summer. He had spent seven years with the Bluebirds, making 270 appearances at a club who won promotion to the top flight in 2013.
As with all City’s transfer dealings in an often fraught window, patience was needed before the deal could be completed but Phelan was in no doubt that the wait would prove worth it.
Hence why the Tigers head coach stuck with Marshall amid a clamour from supporters to reinstate Jakupovic, who had lost his place after helping the Yorkshire club to seven points from the opening five games.
Marshall will be delighted he did stay in goal, as being dropped by City would surely have seriously dented any hopes of retaining his place in the Scotland starting XI.
“If there is one area of the field where we seem strong right now, it is goalkeepers,” said Phelan, who this week lost Will Keane and Abel Hernandez to injury after the pair limped out of Sunday’s win over the Saints.
“I have (Scotland international) Allan McGregor back playing, though he has to do a little bit more because he has played a couple of Under-21 games but not really trained behind the back four. So, he has a little bit to do. But all the goalkeepers are pushing each other now and that is great.”
Marshall has started all three of Scotland’s previous Group H games this season.
The results have been something of a mixed bag, a 5-1 thrashing of Malta – when Robert Snodgrass netted a hat-trick – being followed by a disappointing home draw with Lithuania and a 3-0 defeat in Slovakia.
It means Scotland’s hopes of reaching a first major finals in 20 years are in major doubt, something that will be particularly felt by the Tartan Army after Gordon Strachan’s men missed out at Euro 2016 when all the other Home Nations plus the Republic of Ireland qualified.
If the Scots are to turn around their fortunes and reach Russia in 2018, a positive results tonight is paramount.
Phelan believes his first-choice goalkeeper can play a big part. “I praised every player in the dressing room after the Southampton game,” said the Tigers chief.
“But I was pleased for Marshall because he couldn’t do a lot with many of those (previous) goals.
“Against Southampton, he showed that perseverance pays off. I stayed true to him and David produced a performance that was a credit to him.
“That is why I was really chuffed for him because it is never easy when picking the ball out of your net. We all knew he could perform like he did against Southampton. There is an England game now and maybe he feels he will be busy. But he did well.”