12 December 1998
Millwall 1 Reading 1
McPherson, Casper, Kromheer, Glasgow (Wright), Clement, Caskey, Parkinson, Roach
(Crawford), McIntyre, Sarr.
A real game of two halves. A much over-used cliche of course, but never was it more true than this game at Millwall's New Den. Millwall completely dominated the first half as Reading struggled like anything to push the home side out of their half. If they'd taken a few more of their chances and if Howie hadn't been in such top form to make a string of decent saves the game would have been wrapped up by half time. Thankfully Millwall didn't go in three or four up at half time as they should have done - and that was their downfall as Reading realised they could get something from the game afterall and put in a much improved second half display.
The biggest change for the Royals was in the centre of defence with Kromheer and Macca both making comebacks into the starting line up with Primus and Polston both missing out. Roach also made a rare start with McIntyre up front replacing the injured Martin Williams. In another twist to Reading's formations this season we were clearing playing with a winger on each side PLUS a wing back each side. Leaving two midfield players, three central defenders, and the lone attacker in the shape of McIntyre.
The first half was all Millwall. They fully controlled the game with all the possession and all the chances. It was a rare sight to see Reading pushing forward further than the half way line. Millwall continued to whip in cross after cross and corner after corner. Several times they were denied by Howie or put the thing wide as Reading clung on for life. Millwall should have taken the lead well before they did in the 35th minute. From one of the many corners a shoddy bit of defending from young Byron Glasgow set up Millwall for an easy attempt that was thankfully fired wide. Macca seemed out of sorts in dealing with the balls into the box. The home side looked most likely to score from their low efforts though. From a low cross a how shot came end which saw Howie get down instantly to push the ball past his post for another corner. When Millwall did eventually take the lead it was no suprise it came from yet another corner. Macca got his head to the ball but it dropped on the edge of the area allowing a shot on goal. The shot was a decent one and crept just inside Howie's post. 1-0.
The rest of the first half Reading just survived. Moments later a header from a corner was goal bound but Caskey managed to get his body to block it on the line to allow Howie to collect. Reading's first corner of the match game just before the stroke of half time. A small sign of things to come. They must have got a right bollocking at half time.
Reading started the second half like a completely different team. So much so it obviously suprised Millwall who were probably expecting to walk it during the second half. McIntyre, Reading's lone front man, got his first shot on target from a Caskey pass, his shot needing the first save the home keeper had had to make. Parkie had a long shot from Reading's second corner of the game - but the shot was well over. But signs of recovery. At last.
Although Reading were definately enjoying a bit more of the ball and were starting to look mildly threatening Millwall were still very much in the game and could have gone two up 15 minutes into the half. From a free kick Howie again got down well to tip a shot wide for a corner. Reading made their improvement count midway through the second half when Sarr, who'd been showing some great touches, pounced to score his second Reading goal in consecutive league games - and once again it turned out to be the crucial goal. Caskey put over a cross, the ball was headed out, but only to Sarr who headed down inside the area to make it 1-1.
As the game drew to a close Reading started to sit back and bit and play the game out as a draw. This was shown in some style by the substitution of Wright coming on for Glasgow on the left wing. Wright found acres of space looking to work the ball forward - and eventually got his first touch 10 minutes after coming on with just a few minutes of the game remaining. Of course this sitting back lead to the usual panic finish when Millwall almost grabbed a late winner but managed to only find the side-netting. When Wright did get the ball he managed to put a decent cross in which almost found McIntyre. Reading successfully played out the remaining time and came away with a great result - another vital point when it could have been so different.
On another day though the home side might have made their early dominance count. We were a different side in the second half but Millwall could still have won it. With the lone striker it appears we came for the draw - Tommy Burns must be a very happy, if slightly fortunate, man.