(Half Time: 1-0)
Reading Scorers: -
Millwall Scorers: Cahill (2)
Date: 12 August 2000
Attendance: 11,043

Reading: Whitehead, Newman, Robinson, Viveash, Hunter, Caskey, Parkinson, Hodges (Igoe, 77), McIntyre (Smith, 52), Scott (Henderson, 52), Rougier.
Subs not used: Howie, Polston.

Millwall: Warner, Lawrence, Ryan, Tuttle, Dolan, Reid, Cahill (Bircham, 85), Livermore, Kinet (Neill, 71), Harris, Moody.
Subs not used: Gueret, Nethercott, Braniff.

Well, we were fearing the worst as soon as it was announced that Keith Scott would be spearheading the Reading attack, and our fears were well founded. A surprising and wholly ineffective team selection by Alan Pardew got exactly what it deserved – absolutely nothing.

Certainly there was no shame in the result; Millwall will be near the top come the end of the season, and the New Den is a very intimidating place to play the first match of the season. The 2-0 defeat probably won’t be worrying any Reading fans who couldn’t make the match, since the hardest game of the season is out of the way and there’s another 45 to go.

However, for those of us at the game, it’s a very different story. Millwall were good, but we were awful. There was no creativity, no movement, and absolutely no threat going forward. It was the same story as the first half of last season, when Reading simply looked incapable of creating any chances.

Ricky Newman was played at right back, continuing the experiment from the Charlton friendly. He was one of the better Reading players, but would surely have been better suited in central midfield against his former club. Instead, the midfield was occupied by Parky and Lee Hodges, who both had very poor games and failed to create anything all game.

Another strange decision by Pardew was the selection of Phil Whitehead as the number one keeper. Although Howie is strongly criticised for his kicking, he is a better keeper than Whitehead in every other aspect, and the Reading goal generally seems much more secure when he is playing. The back four looked shaky throughout the game, with a general lack of communication between the Reading defence. Matthew Robinson looked unfit and had his worst game since signing for the Royals, while Hunter & Viveash failed to form any sort of effective partnership in the centre.

The area that all Reading fans were concerned about before the match was up front, where a cruel succession of injuries virtually wiped out our front line. These worries were seemingly eased on Friday with the signing of Tony Rougier from Port Vale. A quick winger with an excellent cross, it seemed likely that he would play wide and feed the ball into the strikers. At last, we were thinking, someone who can put the ball onto the heads of our forwards and bring out the best in McIntyre and Henderson. However, again Pardew surprised everyone with the tactics he used, as it was McIntyre who was put out wide, and Rougier was played as an out and out striker.

Worse than that, Rougier’s partner was neither Henderson or Tyson, but the transfer-listed Keith Scott. Scott is currently the least popular player among the Reading fans; not because of his former clubs or his lack of commitment, but because he is perhaps the most useless striker ever to wear a Reading shirt. His contribution during this game was zero, failing to make any impact whatsoever on the Millwall defence.

With such a weak looking forward line, it was important that the Royals held out the initial bombardment from the lively looking Millwall attack. Yet the shaky defence was exposed after just five minutes, as a poor judgement by Adi Viveash and a mistake by Matt Robinson allowed Cahill to put Millwall in the driving seat right from the start.

With only five minutes gone, the defeat was inevitable and as such the Reading fans were shocked into silence. All the hope and optimism of the pre-season was (temporarily) destroyed by this lack of concentration from the Reading defence.

The rest of the match followed this script, with Millwall dominating and Reading rarely getting the ball into the Millwall half of the pitch. The defence did improve, and Millwall were prevented from running up another huge scoreline. In the end it was just 2-0, with Cahill getting his second five minutes into the second half after another lapse in concentration at he back. As someone pointed out at the end, if we improve each result from last season by 3 goals, we’ll be top of the league in May!

Rougier was lively, and he showed promise that he could be the star of the season and another very astute signing by Pardew. However, in today’s injury-struck line-up using ineffective tactics Rougier was denied a chance to make an immediate impression on his new following.

It was a good turnout by the Reading fans, as around 1500 Royals almost filled the upper tier of the away end. This was a huge improvement on last season’s Tuesday night following of around 300, and is hopefully a sign that we can make the Royals one of the best supported teams in the division this year. If only the performance by the players had matched the commitment of the fans, maybe the atmosphere would have continued longer than it did. As it was, the Royals were pretty much silenced by the lack of any skill from their team, and it was the Lions fans who were singing until the end.

All is not lost though, and it is important that Pardew & Martin Allen learn from their mistakes today. The experimental formation didn’t work, and certain players failed in the roles they were asked to play. I’m sure the management team is sensible enough to realise these errors, and correct them before it is too late. The Swindon game next week will hopefully see the return of Martin Butler, who should work well in partnership with Rougier. A fit John Polston will be more effective than Newman at right back, and this will allow Newman to take Hodges’ role in centre midfield.

We were poor today, but we can improve and I’m sure we will improve. As long as Pardew’s aware that certain mistakes were made today, they won’t be repeated. It will be a very different side that takes the field to play Swindon next week, and hopefully a very different performance to follow.

Report by Neil Cole.

Post Match Opinions

OK, so we had Forster, Butler, Jones, Williams and Murty injured. Yes, Millwall will be a top side this season and their players know each other. But we all wanted something better than this. 4 minutes, a goal down, 8 minutes, Parkie in the book - it was all looking horribly familiar. For most of the game we were outplayed by a better side and even Tony Warner, their keeper, saw off two Caskey free-kicks from ideal positions. What went wrong? Robinson, McIntyre, Hodges all off their game. Viveash given a torrid time by Cahill. Only Rougier looked lively for us. In all honesty, we were lucky with 2-0. There were over 1000 of us there but at least this time most of us kept off our own players' backs even though there was precious little to cheer. We just looked on with mounting horror. The high spot was returning the Millwall fans chants of "---- off Newman" after some tough tackling with a heartfelt, "there's only one Ricky Newman" from almost the entire away end. For that I travelled on 3 trains, trudged through South Bermondsey and trudged back again. I still have faith with Pards but see little sense in Mad Dog getting himself sent off or playing Scott when I keep hearing about the promising youngsters.
Well, it is only one match, there are those injuries and Millwall are a strong side.
Roll on Swindon!

-- Bucks Royal

How disapointed we all were at Millwall saturday with the result, But its not all doom and gloom Too many of our team looked as if they were playing not fully fit, Mind you Scott plays like that all the time ( why start with him and not Tyson) lets hope its just a one off result & make Swindon suffer.
-- Mick B

Well I packed my crash helmet and my bullet proof vest to venture into the 'Lions Den' but the biggest fear I had all day was one of boredom .We were not good,we lacked creativity in every department.Only Rougier stood out,as he never stopped running all afternoon,but he must have been getting really pissed off,to sprint half the length of the pitch, look up to put the ball over and find not one Reading shirt in the box,on countless occasions. Hunter did okay and Whitehead pulled off a couple of great saves,apart from that it was crap. However the most alarming thing all day was the horrible rumour doing the rounds that Forster is out for the season.I only hope that this is one of those total bollox rumours,similar to the one that we were going to buy Figo but Pardew didnt think he was all that.
-- Russ, Essex Royal.

Got an Opinion?
Comment on this, or any Royals match - email opinion@royals.cx
Appropriate submissions will appear on match report pages!