BY JAKE SANDERS
Jed Wallace scored a Christmas cracker of a free-kick as Millwall ended a run of eight Championship games without a victory against nine man Reading at The Den.
The decisive moments came early in the contest. First Wallace rammed the Lions ahead with an emphatic free-kick in the eighth minute and then Tyler Blackett was sent off for the visitors as they were placed at an early numerical disadvantage.
Leandro Bacuna also saw red late in the game for treading on a floored Shane Ferguson.
The victory was Millwall’s first since the 3-0 win over Ipswich Town on October 27 – also the last time they kept a clean sheet.
Reading enjoyed the better of the opening few minutes, but the game swung Millwall’s way in the space of 60 seconds.
Firstly, Jed Wallace crashed home a stunning 25-yard free-kick to put the Lions in front and then almost immediately after that goal the visitors were reduced to 10 men as former Manchester United defender Blackett saw red for a rash challenge on Millwall’s goalscorer.
The hosts almost made their numerical advantage count immediately, but Lee Gregory was unable to convert from close-range after Shaun Hutchinson’s header was parried into his path by Anssi Jaakkola in the Royals goal.
But despite Blackett’s dismissal, it was Reading that took control of the game and had almost 60 per cent of the football in the opening 45 minutes, although a long-range strike from John Swift that Jordan Archer comfortably saved was the closest they came to finding the net.
Just moments after the interval Millwall nearly had a second stunning goal of the afternoon, but Ryan Leonard’s dipping volley from 25 yards sailed narrowly wide of the top right-hand corner.
That chance was against the run of play and it was the visitors that were in the ascendency. It was becoming difficult to tell who had the 10 men.
Reading – who were playing their first game under new boss Jose Manuel Gomes – were pushing hard for an equaliser and it almost came on 71 minutes. Swift – who had tested Archer in the first half – curled a wonderful free-kick towards the far corner and luckily for Millwall, it struck the top of the bar and they survived.
The Lions responded well at the other end, but Jake Cooper’s header was bundled off the line by a combination of Jaakkola and the post.
Reading had Bacuna sent off in the last minute of normal-time for a stamp on Ferguson and despite some late Royals pressure, Millwall held on for a massive victory and moved above their opponents and up to 20th in the Championship standings.
PICTURES BY BRIAN TONKS