Obita 9 Baldock 37
BY ALEX GRACE
AT THE MADEJSKI STADIUM
It’s a new dawn, a new day – but still no away win for Millwall.
The away day blues for the Lions continue. This winless run stretches back as far as March’s 2-0 win at Birmingham City.
And they did not look like ending it in the initial 45 minutes.
The first half let the Lions down in Berkshire. Two very avoidable goals were conceded. The first one in particular would have disappointed boss Gary Rowett.
Jake Cooper should have done better with a long throw into the box.
He hacked the ball away but it came out to Jordan Obita, who was given enough space to thunder home and give the Royals the lead. And that goal had been on the cards since virtually the start of the game.
John Swift caused Millwall’s defence all kinds of problems on a day that also saw Millwall very shaky at defending set-pieces.
The Royals player will feel unlucky not to have found his name on the scoresheet – his tremendous curling free-kick came back off the crossbar.
He nearly claimed an assist as well. His perfect delivery was met by Matt Miazga who was denied by what can only be described as one of the saves of the season by Bartosz Bialkowski.
The Poland international looked beaten but somehow managed not just to save the defender’s header one-handed but also made sure it ended up behind the goal, so there was no second ball available.
Reading’s second goal summed up Millwall’s first-half performance. Sam Baldock was given the freedom of Berkshire to receive, control, come forward and strike the ball into the top corner past Bialkowski, leaving the on-loan Ipswich stopper with no chance at all.
The Lions ended the half without a single shot on target.
Rowett is not afraid to use his substitutions early, and this is what he did. Former Royal Dadi-Bodvarsson was brought on as Millwall pushed an extra man to partner the isolated Tom Bradshaw.
The second half was a lot more positive for Millwall especially after Jed Wallace’s goal just after the hour mark.
The wide man went on a trademark run, in almost identical copy of what we saw last weekend against Stoke City. He nutmegged one defender before sprinting past two more and firing a low effort past Cabral.
That goal means that the former Portsmouth man has already broken the tally he got last season and joins Tom Bradshaw at the top of Millwall’s scoring charts on six goals. It also meant that he equalled his best tally in a Millwall shirt.
The 2017/18 season saw him find the net six times. This campaign clearly looks like being his best – not just in terms of his goal return but in general play also.
One major criticism of the former Wolves man since his arrival at The Den has been his end product – but no one is saying that now.
The goal changed the atmosphere in the ground. Suddenly the home fans became nervous. And it was like the goal woke up the travelling party.
Wallace soon went on another of his runs but a heavy touch prevented the chance from really opening up.
Bodvarsson went close with a stunning bicycle kick effort that fell just wide of the far post.
Millwall did record their second highest number of passes in a game this season on Saturday – 398, second only to the 423 recorded at Blackburn in September – though that ended in a two-goal defeat.
Millwall also recorded more possession than their opponents 52.8 per cent – something unheard of in the Harris era. This is perhaps a sign of things to come under Rowett.
Despite the second half positives, it is still another defeat on the road and means the club have no away league win on a Saturday since the trip to Barnsley, a distant 20 months ago.
Rowett’s men have no time to dwell on this result as the red side of South London arrive in SE16
The Lions are defending a 23-year unbeaten run against Charlton at a sold-out Den on Saturday. It would be the perfect match to respond.
Millwall (4-4-1-1): Bialkowski 7, Romeo 6, Hutchinson 6, Cooper 6, M Wallace 5, J Wallace 7, Williams 6 (Mahoney), Molumby 6, Ferguson 6 (Bodvarsson 6), Thompson 6, Bradshaw 6 (Smith). Not used: Steel, McCarthy, Pearce, O’Brien