Reading FC Match Report: 2021/2022 Season - Championship
READING 0 MILLWALL 1
Millwall: Jake Cooper (37)
Reading's status as a Championship club is beginning to look distinctly precarious. Another goal conceded from a set piece (apparently the twentieth this season) resulted in yet another defeat with Derby County and Barnsley snapping at their heels. Reading face a run of three matches against teams pushing for promotion which could well see their five point cushion disappear. More worryingly the impact of new manager has done nothing to inspire confidence. Chasing the game against a Millwall side happy to drop deep and defend their first half lead delivered by former Royal centre back Jake Cooper, Ince remarkably declined the option of introducing a fully fit and proven goal scorer Yakou Meite until five minutes from the end. The last straw for me was Ince's decision to duck out of the post interview, leaving Michael Gilkes to field the awkward questions about a distinctly avoidable defeat. It is hard to respect a manager who delegates a difficult aspect of his job to his assistant. It brings into question his leadership which is key factor in a relegation battle.
In a fairly uneventful first half Ince came closest to scoring for Reading with a snap shot from the edge of the box which a startled Bialkowski was only able to parry. Swift had a decent effort from a free kick and Ince curled in a fairly harmless effort which hardly tested the Millwall ‘keeper. Swift was put in on goal by a lovely pass from Joao but his strike was woeful for player of his ability. The only noticeable improvement in this Reading performance was their defensive set up (apart from the obvious vulnerability from corners). In particular, Millwall found it very difficult to deliver crosses into the box from open play. Important, but it does not win matches.
Shortly before half time Reading once again suffered a self-inflicted wound with series of errors in quick succession. A poorly taken corner by Ince gave Millwall the opportunity to hit Reading on the break. Outnumbered at the back, it took a brilliant last ditch tackle by Rinomhota chasing back to prevent Burey from giving Millwall the lead. The ball ran to Drinkwater who’s loose pass presented McNamara with a another chance for Millwall to score. This time an excellent save from Southwood came to the rescue. The third and fatal error came when a routine corner floated to the far post was met by a thumping header from Jake Cooper leaving Holmes and Morrison floundering
The second half saw Millwall shut up shop and Reading rarely looked likely to breach their dominant back four. It was beyond belief that Paul Ince delayed making any changes until it was too late to effect the game. With Millwall’s left back Wallace, and Jake Copper on a yellow card, it was a tailor made situation to bring on Meite to run at them to unsettle a defence that was definitely operating well within their comfort zone. Meite, with his proven track record as a goal scorer, should be starting every game. Ince gave him five minutes on the pitch today playing alongside a below par Joao. Ejaria might have made a difference but he was only given ten minutes. Bizarrely Ince then decided to bring on Scott Dann in the last minute of stoppage time. Some may be quick to point out Paunovic was equally reluctant to make changes, but rarely did Velkjo have such a strong bench to draw upon to freshen up his attack. Hopefully Ince’s decision making will improve as he learns about the strengths of his squad. He need to learn fast because time is running out.
As for Millwall if they think they are good enough to play in the Premier League they are deluded. Also, any club failing to call out the overtly racist behaviour as displayed by their fans in booing the Reading team for ‘taking the knee’, does not deserve to be successful. I have always thought it is a bit sad that a club’s claim to fame is that no-one likes them, but not hard to see why.
This Championship game took place 388 days ago in the 2021/2022 season.