Reading returns to action after four straight defeats this midweek when they travel to London to face Gary Rowett’s Millwall.
The Royals will be left behind from their surrender in Saturday’s early kick-off against AFC Bournemouth – but they’ll have to put in a solid performance tonight to get back on track. It will be interesting to see who separates the two sides with just four points. This gap could only approach one if the home team took all three points – and thus deepened Veljko Paunovic’s suffering. It is time for Reading to step up. Can you do it?
The Lions have drawn their last three games – three points out of a possible nine. For many people looking at this from the outside, this probably seems like a pretty frustrating set of results. Two of their draws, however, were lost in the promotion candidates Norwich City and Yorkshire Sheffield Wednesday, who defeated Bournemouth 1-0 in Hillsborough not so long ago. While there is no easy game in the championship, this is probably an ideal time for Millwall to play Reading, especially after a weekend loss. You can’t underestimate the royals, however, especially if they’re looking to score all three points tonight.
Former Royal Jake Cooper is likely to start tonight – and let me just say a word or two about him. While it didn’t work out for him in Berkshire, the middle half did amazingly well to jump back and show why Jaap Stam was wrong about letting him go regardless of the system we were playing. Moving to the Premier League isn’t impossible either, and while we can’t exactly wish him luck tonight (or the reverse game), I hope he achieves even greater things. Jed Wallace, who was actually born in Reading, is a decent player in every way. The defense needs to keep a close eye on him.
On Saturday we learned that football is definitely a game of two halves. We played exceptionally well in the first 45 – we took our risk when they arrived and stayed solid behind. Tomas Esteves looked reasonably good against Arnaut Danjuma and everything went well. After half time everything fell apart. Individual mistakes crept in and Bournemouth showed exactly why they will be fighting for promotion at the end of the campaign. A miserable second half ended with a mistake by Rafael – fittingly at the end of a terrible second 45. It could be time for Paunovic to call the changes to try to stop the rot – we’ll have to wait to find out if he’ll do it.
One positive result on Saturday was the return of some of our previously injured players. Ovie Ejaria showed exactly why he is so important to this squad after scoring a goal in Sone Aluko – and Liam Moore also returned to keep things tight defensively, to no avail. Yakou Meite arrived 15 minutes before the end but couldn’t get the effect he wanted. Will he or Michael Olise start on Wednesday? It was certainly interesting to see the latter on a bench again – together with his colleague Tom Holmes, who returned earlier than expected. Bad news was Andy Yiadom’s absence, who revealed after the game that he had sustained an injury while playing internationally.
The game, overshadowed by supposedly homophobic singing, was in the balance before Matt Smith turned 71. Minute shot home by a loose ball. Just over ten minutes later, ex-Reading player Jon Dadi Bodvarsson sat coolly home in a duel to secure all three points for the Londoners.
Here is the starting line-up of this game: Rafael, Blackett, Moore, Morrison, Gunter, Adam, Pelé, Ejaria, Swift, Meite, Baldock. Jordan Obita, Garath McCleary and George Puscas all came as replacements.
Alfa Semedo’s dribbling led to Asmir Begovic defeating the Benfica borrower in the penalty area early on. Lucas Joao converted the penalty emphatically – and they doubled their lead just before half-time when Ovie Ejaria’s wonderful ball came home to Sone Aluko.
At halftime everything seemed to be perfect. Two goals from Dominic Solanke and Arnaut Danjuma within a few minutes, however, brought the home team to the goal before the hour. Lewis Cook’s wonderful goal in 77. Minute put the Cherries 3-2 ahead before a mistake by Rafael allowed Solanke to score his second goal.
I made three changes for this game, although it could easily have been four.
In my last preview, I said Rafael had to rule out stupid mistakes to keep Luke Southwood at bay. Unfortunately, he made two completely avoidable mistakes over the weekend: one in the first half when he put the ball in a precarious position, as he did against Stoke – and the one at the end, which was punished by Dominic Solanke. For me he gets another chance. Paunovic has to bear some of the blame for this because of the style of play, but if the Brazilian makes another mistake tonight, it could be time for a change.
Again Omar Richards starts at the back, although we don’t really have many other options in the back left. Liam Moore and Michael Morrison in the back and Tom Holmes enter instead of Tomas Esteves. While I believe the teen was disappointed with his second half performance, now is the time to bring in someone else. Some people may be wondering why I decided to ditch Esteves, but not Rafael – and that’s a good question. I just think Holmes will give us an extra layer of defense in defense, something we have been calling for.
Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent really impressed me in the first half on Saturday and I hope these defeats have kept them both confident as we know they can be very effective as a unit. Before them, both Michael Olise and Yakou Meite could start alongside Ovie Ejaria in the three behind the lone striker. Maybe this is tough for Alfa Semedo and Sone Aluko – but we have to mess things up. Both Semedo and Aluko could make a big impression – one of the great perks of having multiple players back from injury.
At the top, Lucas Joao gets the nod again. Although the weekend loss was hard to take, it was just so refreshing to see Joao and see how he can cause problems defending the championship. He continues to be a useful figure and we can only hope he stays injury free for the rest of the season. The likelihood of this? I’m not sure – but let’s enjoy it while he’s fit and playing.
forecast time. A bit of optimism is what we all need right now, so predicting a loss is off the table in this game preview. However, after four straight defeats, can I really predict a win? Anything is possible with Reading – but I will aim for a 1-1 draw. I can sense late drama too – hopefully we could benefit from it.
Millwall F. . C.. . , Reading F. . C.. . , EFL Championship, Gary Rowett, Veljko Paunović, Cardiff City F. . C.. .
EbeneMagazine – GB – Millwall vs Reading: Match Preview
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– Millwall vs Reading: Game Preview