Reading FC Match Report: 2020/2021 Season - Championship


Reading: A Semedo (17)
Millwall: M Smith (76), M Bennett (85)

Reading lost ground in the promotion chase suffering their second home defeat in four days against a very physical Millwall side. After Millwall had failed to intimidate Reading with their typically brutal physical start to the game Reading began to play some good football and took an early lead through a brilliant Samedo opportunist goal. There were flashes of brilliance from Olise, Ejaria and Joao but the vital second goal eluded Reading. Millwall stuck to their game plan, mainly due to the limitations of their squad, and finally got a couple of lucky breaks late in the game and nicked two goals. In short a typical Championship fixture against a side not good enough to go up but not bad enough to go down.

It was like an old boy’s reunion with Cooper, Evans and Bodvarsson in the Millwall line up clearly matching their selection criteria in terms of height. The standard of refereeing continues to disappoint this season and referee Woolmer had a particularly poor start to the game, allowing Millwall to commit series of infringements without showing a yellow card, or even in some cases, awarding a free kick for clear and obvious offences. The midfield in particular came in for some stick, but Olise was their favoured victim. Millwall had a significant advantage in height throughout their team, and throughout the game. Cooper frequently came forward and was always favourite to win any ball hoisted into the Reading penalty area. Similarly crosses into the Millwall box were nullified by his presence.

The opening minute set the tone with a heading duel just inside the Reading half in which the ball bobbed back and forth several time with neither side prepared to duck out of a challenge. Millwall came close to an early lead with an Evans header which thumped against the bar from corner after eight minutes. There was a close call for Millwall when Rinomhota pounced of a loose pass in their half and was taken down having reached the ball before the challenging Millwall defender. Potentially it was a red card offence but this referee was giving nothing to Reading. A minute later we were treated to a typical masterpiece of iFollow coverage when Samedo scored an excellent opportunist goal, pouncing on a heavy Millwall touch and hammering the ball into the unguarded net past a surprised Bialkowski, while we were treated to a replay of a previous incident! At least we were given the benefit of also seeing the replay of the goal. The BBC journalist must have also missed the replay claiming Reading scored in “bizarre fashion when Alfa Samedo challenged for Lions keeper Bartoz Bailkowski’s throw and the ball cannoned into an unguarded net from 50 yards”.

Just before half time Olise produced a moment which belonged at a higher level of football altogether. Bringing the ball under control with an outstanding touch he glided past three lunging Millwall players before delivering a perfect pass through the Millwall defence to Joao who elected to place the ball inside the far post. Bailowski (dubbed ‘a clown, by Ade Williams at half time!) got a hand to and pushed it away.

Millwall needing to score, made two changes at half time, bringing on Wallace and Bennett which injected more energy into their attack. With the constant aerial threat of Millwall the game looked set to go either way. Smith was introduced to increase their dominance in the air, not that they needed it. Millwall got the break they were hoping for when a counter attack resulted in a completely scuffed attempt by Bradshaw fallling kindly for Smith who gratefully smashed it past Raphael from close range. Reading desperate for three points went forward with greater urgency and a minute later Ejaria hit the bar. It was beginning to feel like one of those days for The Royals. A miserable day was completed when a deflected cross looped up deceiving Reading’s defence and dropped at the near post where Bennett reacted quickest and, unchallenged, nodded the ball over Raphael inside the far post.

It was a game Reading should have won, and to sustain their push for a play-off spot they will have to learn how to overcome teams like Millwall who play a physical game. There are lot of them in the Championship. Reading have the players and I am sure Paunovic will find a way. Players do need to be rested when playing three games in the space of eight days. Today he probably thought about Millwall’s tactics in resting Yiadom and Richards. Given the aerial threat posed by Millwall at set pieces, the selection of Holmes and Gibson made sense, and the ability of Millwall’s defence to deal with crosses reduced the impact of Yiadom and Richards getting forward. Holmes and Gibson both had very assured games but had to be substituted late in the game when Reading were chasing the game in a desperate to open up the Millwall defence . With Swift still unavailable Semedo was given the holding midfield role leaving Rinomhota and Laurent to push forward which was not a bad plan. The issue of needing a second top class striker will not go away.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 168 days ago in the 2020/2021 season.