READING 3 MILLWALL 4 (Half Time: 0-3)
Igoe (65 mins), Caskey (76 pen), Cureton (90)
Millwall Scorers: Harris (17 mins, 22, 50 pen), Newman (29 og)
|Date: 6 January
Reading: Whitehead, Newman, Mackie, Hunter, Robinson (Murty), Caskey, Smith (Igoe), Parkinson, Cureton, Butler, Hodges (Rougier). Subs not used: Howie, Gurney, Mackie.
Millwall: Warner, Lawrence, Ryan, Dolan, Dyche, Ifill, Cahill, Livermore, Kinet (Reid), Harris, Moody. Subs not used: Gueret, Neill, Nethercott, Sadlier.
Bookings: Cahill, Harris, Livermore, Reid (Millwall).
This was a massively disappointing result for Reading - as well as a massively disappointing performance. In front of a big crowd, playing against a team managed by Mark McGhee we came off second best by a long way. The score and the match statistics show a close run thing, but it was only close after Reading came back into the game when Millwall already had it won. By half time we were already dead and buried at 0-3 down, and when Mackie pulled a player back in the area for a penalty which made it 0-4, there would be only one result. Thankfully Millwall failed to keep the momentum up and Reading managed to pull back three goals to give a respectable result even if it was the wrong result. Although there's no doubt that heads dropped when we went one goal, two goals and then three goals down, it was hard to fault the effort of the team after they battled back in the second half - which means we must have some serious tactical problems somewhere. Millwall were clearly a good side that defended very well and with Harris up front they are always likely to score goals, but we should never have let them go four goals up.
Things looked bright at kick-off. A sunny day, a well filled Madejski Stadium and a good atmosphere from both the home and away fans, with the return of McGhee adding some spice. With Millwall top of the table, but Reading still in touch, and with home advantage, it looked set to be a real contest. Reading's only change was Mackie returning to the centre of defence with Viveash out suspended. After half an hour all the pre-match excitement and anticipation had gone. Millwall were three goals up and the only noise to be heard was coming from the jubilent 3,000 fans in the away end singing the praises of Mark McGhee. Yet it had been Reading that had got off to the better start.
Right from kick off Reading went on the attack. If we'd made the most of the chances we created within the opening fifteen minutes it might have been a completely different story. Caskey probably should have shot after the ball came to him well inside the area with just the keeper in the way - instead he played it more into the middle looking for someone else to finish it, and Millwall got it clear. Moments later Butler was delivered the ball on the edge of the box with Caskey spare to his right. If he'd knocked it on it would have found Caskey with just the keeper to beat, but instead he shot low and straight at the Millwall goalkeeper.
In an indication of some of the scrappy play that was to come Millwall picked up two yellow cards for a couple of heavy late challenges on Caskey and Robinson. The two bookings almost worked to Millwall's advantage though as it was clear that they were winning the game physically. This pattern of play was to continue with Robinson being replaced during the first half for Graeme Murty after going down under a heavy challenge in front of the East Stand. Millwall may have conceeded a fair few fouls but they were winning a huge amount of perfectly legal challenges with Reading losing out on nearly every fifty fifty ball. Only Parkinson was winning his fair share of balls in midfield - the rest of the players were really strugging to keep hold off the ball. Reading may have got off to the slightly better start but Millwall were far from uncomfortable.
Mark McGhee probably had his fixed smug grin in place as early as the 17th minute when Harris gave Millwall the lead. It was a killer blow that Reading failed to recover from. A cross was knocked in from the left, Reading failed to defend it probably and Harris hooked it in from close range towards the centre of goal. 0-1. Millwall continued on the attack and almost made it two a couple of minutes later with Whitehead pushing a shot out for a corner with a mid air save to his right. It was from a corner that Millwall did make it two with just 22 minutes gone. The ball was played in from the left and flew through a crowd of players to find Harris towards the far post with no-one even slightly near. We couldn't have been more generous and since it would have been rude of him not to accept such a kind offering he prodded it home. 0-2.
At 0-2 down Reading looked their worst and seemed unable to do anything but hoof the ball forward, head it about a bit, and generally lose possession to Millwall. Millwall took full advantage on the half hour after a cross flew off a couple of players and went in off ex-Millwall player Ricky Newman to make it 0-3.
Desperate times called for desperate measures. It was clear it wasn't working and Pardew, sensing a stuffing, made a double substitution. Some might say he should have started with Igoe and Rougier on the pitch to attack Millwall and look for the early goal. Since he hadn't done that it made perfect sense to bring the two players on at this stage. At 0-3 down we needed at least three goals to get anything from the game, so it was time to play some proper football along the ground and go on the attack looking for something. Off come a very disappointed Neil Smith and Lee Hodges. Pardew would have hoped for an immediate impact and perhaps a goal to give us a realistic chance in the second half. Unforutnately little seemed to change at this point with no service to the front men. At half time Reading were booed off the pitch by some sections of the crowd - the Millwall fans couldn't be happier.
Millwall sealed victory five minutes into the second half. They broke into the Reading area and Mackie, who was getting beaten far too often, held his man back rather than let him run through and score. The resulting penalty was fired low into the bottom left of the net with Whitehead still on his feet bouncing the wrong direction. 0-4, and the game was effectively over. For a moment or two we feared another heavy stuffing, but thankfully Reading didn't stop playing despite the inevitable defeat while Millwall seemed to fade.
Millwall had been playing some nice on the floor football, passing it around and generally looking the better side - so much so their fans took delight in singing about how they were taking the piss... However at four goals up they seemed to abandon that style of game and let Reading do all the hoofing with both Mackie and Hunter whacking the ball all over the place rather than pass it sensibly out of defence. The second half seemed to be quickly degenerating into a hoofing contest with both sides hoofing the ball all over the place rather than play it on the ground. Thankfully Igoe and Murty preferred playing it along the floor - and perhaps it was their influence that helped get Reading back into the game.
Murty was one of the brightest points for the home fans - he followed up his suprise appearance on the pitch by a performance of suprising quality for a player that's been side lined for so long. Last time he made a re-appearance from injury he looked rusty and not fully fit. Today he made some great runs forward, looked pacey, and also managed to get back fast to put in some excellent tackles. In a day of suprises it was the smallest man on the pitch, little Sammy Igoe, who popped up at the far post to head the ball home from a Cureton cross from the left on 65 minutes. 1-4.
With fifteen minutes to go Reading seemed back in with a remote chance after the ball bounced up in the area and a handball was awarded. A rare stroke of luck for the Royals which Caskey didn't waste. 2-4, and 15 minutes left for Reading to try and get something out of the game. Down the other end Millwall's chances were becoming more limited, but they could still have made it 2-5 after Newman fell over leaving a clear run on goal. Thankfully Millwall blasted it high over the crossbar.
Bizarrely we could have pulled level during the last ten minutes when we made as many chances as we had all game, including winning a whole load of corners and free-kicks. Caskey had two free kicks in typical Caskey territory - either of those could have gone in. One flew wide to the right - but not far out, the other was saved by the keeper after it beat the wall and looked to be heading into the top left corner. Phil Parkinson showed his true battling qualities by bursting through the centre of defence, beating a couple of men, and almost beating the keeper. If the ball had stayed a little closer to him he could have made it 3-4. Reading did make it 3-4 just into injury time when a corner from the right was stuck in by Jamie Cureton. If we'd had an extra ten minutes we might well have got a point or more - but Cureton's goal was the last kick of the game.
We might have scored another three home goals but it's yet another league defeat
against a side we had to beat. And a McGhee side at that. Reading have managed
just two wins from the last eight league games and lost four - which just isn't
Following report by Neil Cole:
Any fading hopes of automatic promotion were really put into perspective today, as Reading were comfortably beaten at home by league leaders Millwall. Mark McGhees team are the first of what can be seen as title contenders to visit the Madejski this season, and the ease with which they took the points is more than a little worrying. The scoreline in the end deeply flatters the Royals, who only got back in the game when Millwall had the match sewn up and had in effect stopped trying.
The importance of this match could not have been overestimated. With Millwall already eight points clear of us at the top, a win was needed to get them back in our sights. However, todays result instead sees them move even further away, and the eleven point gap looks huge when you consider what poor form Reading are in. The team werent good enough today, defensively in particular, and at times some of Pardews tactics were a joke. Performances like these will see us struggle to even make the play-offs, let alone one of the top two spots.
Alan Pardew resisted the temptation to start with a more attacking line-up, instead sticking with the midfield that struggled to get a point against Northampton. The only change from that match was at centre-back, where the suspended Adi Viveash was replaced by John Mackie. This team was soon proved to be woefully inept, as Millwall were 3-0 up within half an hour. The inexperienced Mackie could not cope with Neil Harris, who is surely the best striker in Division Two. Harris finishing today earned him his third hat-trick of the season, and even our own Butler and Cureton must concede theyre not going to finish the leagues top scorer this season.
As well as the weakness in defence, the midfield was dreadful to begin with today. Every pass Hodges played seemed to find a Millwall player, while Parky and Smith could not get a grip on the game. Caskey was at the centre of the few chances we did have in the first half, but he was unable to find a goal from anywhere.
It wasnt long before the class of Harris showed up our inadequacies. His first came after comfortably turning Mackie in the area and finishing well past Whitehead. The second was simple, as dreadful marking allowed him far too much space at the far post. The threat of Harris and strike partner Moody soon created a third, as ex-Millwall player Ricky Newman headed into his own net.
The scoreline must surely have shocked everyone in the ground, particularly Alan Pardew who made a double substitution shortly after the third goal. He abandoned the defensive midfield, replacing Smith and Hodges with Sammy Igoe and Tony Rougier. He was then forced to use a third substitution, as Graeme Murty came on for the injured Matt Robinson.
While these changes were appreciated by the Reading fans, the tactics used with them were bizarre to say the least. Martin Butler dropped back into a left-sided midfield role, with Rougier playing up front with Jamie Cureton. Murty replaced Robinson directly at left-back, instead of playing on his favoured right side.
The changes had little effect, and Millwall scored a fourth shortly after the break. Mackie was again beaten by Harris, and his frustrated tug of the Millwall strikers shirt gave the visitors a penalty. Harris completed his hat-trick and secured the points for the Lions.
Reading didnt give up, and at 0-4 at last started to show some pride in their game. Murty switched to the right and had a decent second half, as did Sammy Igoe who looked determined to lead the fightback. It was Igoe who got the Royals first, heading a goal mid-way through the second half.
At this point getting anything from the game was still unlikely, but when Newmans cross was handled in the box by a Millwall a defender we were given some hope. Caskey scored the penalty, and with fifteen minutes to go Reading pressed for another.
However, where Stoke had buckled in a similar situation earlier in the season, Millwall were more resilient. Their defence held out, and no more mistakes were made until the last kick of the game, when Jamie Curetons shot was deflected in. It was too late, and final whistle immediately followed the re-start. Reading had somehow got to within a goal of rescuing a point, but in truth Millwall easily deserved all three points.
This performance more than the result surely ends any dreams of winning the league. While a dramatic improvement in form could still yield automatic promotion, the last few performances have been very poor. Were in danger now of dropping out of the top six, and need to find something quickly if we are to keep with the leaders.
Post Match Opinions
In his programme notes, Alan Pardew commented that the outcome of
this match would be decided by the success of the strikers on the day.
How wrong he was.
It was obvious that Mark McGhee was going to make sure his team wasnt
beaten today after Pardew's stupid comments in the Evening Post and also
the stupid comments by the announcer before the match.
Forget the scoreline, this was an easy one for Millwall. Harris won
the battle of the strikers with Cureton and Butler and it wasn't even
close. The same starting line up as against Northampton when it had already
proven it could not break down a good defence nor finish. We showed the
top place was out of sight and not deserved by us. Some really bad performances
on the field by individuals such as Butler and Hunter and an overall defence
that just couldn't cope. Any good points? Well the fans kept the faith
and urged the team on, few left before the end, the team were applauded
on after half time despite being 3-0 down and were not booed off at the
end(at least where I was sitting). Igoe showed he should have a start
with the team, Parkie battled nonstop (of course) and Caskey has refound
his enthusiasm getting involved everywhere no matter how bad things seemed.
Listening to the radio on my trip from London confirmed my worst fears
when the team was announced. Last week I said we could not beat Millwall
with the same team approach that we displayed against Northampton, but
once again Pardew started with Hodges & Smith leaving Igoe & Rougier on
the bench. Same out come only worse, against a better side than Northampton.
It is obvious that without Adie Williams to steady the defence we are
shaky at the back. Hunter had an awful game and Whitehead's distribution
was only marginally better than last week.
Any doubts about where the Royals really stand were answered today.
After several unconvincing performances recently, giving away points cheaply
to Bristol Rovers (throwing away what should have been an easy victory)
and struggling against Northampton (a solid team but one which should
be brushed aside by any potential promotion candidates) Reading look set
for yet another season in Div 2. Any team going into Division 1 needs
to have a settled, well balanced and committed side with plenty of strength
in depth. The Royals need to rebuild the defence and midfield now and
do so quickly if they want to have aspirations of playing at a higher
A thoroughly deserved win by a quality team. Millwall had players
who were able to control the ball and pass it to a colleague, while Reading
were content to hoof the ball in the general direction of Martin Butler.
The match confirmed my opinion that Mark McGhee was the best manager I
have seen in 16 years at Reading, and that he should have been invited
back after Tommy Burns' departure.
Forget the final score, this was total humiliation today for a Reading
team that was made look pathetic against a team that played football just
the way we used to under the management of Mark McGhee. What must John
Madjeski have thought looking down, as Millwall showed how football should
be played and Reading resorting to long balls and were unable to put two
passes together combined with defending that wouldn't look out of place
, with respect , in the Reading Sunday League division 6! What the bloody
hell is Pardew playing at? What's the point of starting with Igoe and
Rougier on the bench and once again Caskey wasted out on the right. It's
no frigging good bringing them on when we're 3- 0 down!
Men against boys.
I listened to the post match comments from both managers and disagreed
with them both. Alan Pardew felt that we’d come up short to the best in
the league and that Neil Harris is a class act. McGhee felt that a true
reflection on the game was 4 or 5 nil.
Judging by other opinions voiced here I think many of us feel that
this was a result waiting to happen. I am still backing Alan Pardew -
long term he'll get us where we want to be but its high time he realised
few things that have been staring him in the face for far to long. Adi
Williams is the best central defender we have and Vivash is decent second.
Without the former we look far less assured and without both we'll never
make an impact on this division - if he can't buy it's time to loan. I
believe he's been trying to compensate for his weaker backline by putting
out a more defensive midfield. It hasn't worked and has only succeeded
in making us less potent up front.
I disagree with the report above which says Millwall's defence was
good. I thought they were just as bad as Reading's defence and what makes
the result more frustrating is that Alan Pardew said exactlythat before
the game. So if he knew that was a weakness why did he not start with
Rougier, the only Reading player able to run at defences. Martin Butler
was woeful and played as badly as he did against Northampton - he isn't
suddenly a bad player but if he has lost form why start with him. Also
the long arial balls don't work and this has been mentioned by people
on this website numerous times so surely Alan Pardew has noticed it. We
must remember how new he is to management and be patient but this is now
the critical phase of home games - Walsall, Rotherham, Bristol City, Wigan
all to come to the Madejski. So come back Adie Williams please and also
drop Barry Hunter. John Mackie and Viveash are a fine duo at the back.
Also well done Graeme Murty. A brilliant display that surprised us all
I hate being right but Saturday proved my point that we aren't good
enough to go up yet. Everything I feared came true on Saturday our back
four isn't good enough against the top sides and Pardew again brings on
Igoe and Rogier when it's too late. What I couldn't believe was he stuck
Butler out on the wing, probably because he has a left foot but we need
him up front to hold the ball up as we are intent with playing the long
ball game currently. The only plus point was hopefully Caskey proving
finally to Pardew that he must play in the centre of midfield so he can
influence games more. Although I was pleased we made the scoreline reasonable
I'm convinced it was more to do with Millwall easing up in the second
half and looking back it's a shame we weren't stuffed 4v0 to really hammer
some home truths to the management and their tactics. Is Adrian Williams
still at the club ? Another defeat at Stoke this week, mid table here
The decline from November is frightening. The inability to learn from
mistakes inexcusable. This has to be the most inept performance I have
seen from Reading since the days of Tommy Burns. And we probably had the
better players. Upto the first goal they were happy to just slug it out
and could have been reduced to 10 men within 10 minutes. However, once
they stopped defending and attacked they suddenly discovered that our
castle is built on quick sand. Mackie was always 2 paces off, Robinson
had his worst game in a Reading shirt and Hunter gave one of the worst
performance of any I've seen from a Royals player.
I hope you can still publish my report. I have purposely left it
late as I didn't want to be too emotional whilst writing it. After having
read all the other reports on Royals.cx I have to say I agree with almost
every one and would have probably written something similar myself.
Whoaa!! Suddenly Alan Pardew is a useless manager, and the team are
a bunch of hoofing donkeys!! OK so it was a disappointing defeat, but
let's not get it all out of context.
Saturday was my first visit to the Madhouse since the Colchester match
(no I'm not a Jonah - remember York didn't need me!) I agree with the
general mood of all the comments made - we didn't play as a team, no running
off the ball, no passing to our own players (alright I'm exaggerating
but only just). Do our players like each other and want to help one another?
We displayed very little teamwork, nobody seemed to learn from mistakes.
It really isn't funny to see all the outfield players crowd in one part
of the field every time Whitehead gets the ball. If only Howie could learn
to how clear the halfway line maybe we could give him a try instead or,
I know it's radical, play it short or throw it to one of our players,
they might even be able to keep it for a while! By all account Howie seems
to be doing a good job for the reserves, coping with crosses even - Whitehead
on Saturday seemed to change his mind on several occasions.
Say what you like about Mark McGhee, he was the best manager Reading
have had in the time I have been a supporter (late 70's). He brought a
Millwall side on Saturday that played an attractive passing game just
as we did in his spell at Elm Park. We now appear to have resorted back
the boring long ball game we played before McGhee arrived. Unfortunately
we aren't very good at it and against both Northampton and Millwall, couldn't
get on the end of anything in the air. Given time and experience Alan
Pardew is going to be a good manager, but he must not resort to these
tactics. Even if it means we don't gain promotion, I would rather see
us trying to play football as it was meant to be.
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