Millwall 1-2 Reading ~ Match Report

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You know, I am dreading home games these days.

There is an air of despondency about the place that is becoming slightly infectious and it is almost like the condemned man in his lonely prison cell, hearing the hammering and banging from the dutiful carpenter, as he shapes the timber into the final structure that the poor misbegotten son of a bitch will see before he is dropped into oblivion (or East London, whichever is the worst), I feel more and more attuned to the fact that we are in a spot of bother.

We have a considerable hill to climb in regards to making safe our tenure as a Championship side. All our remaining home games look pretty tough and we need to win at least half of them and pick up some bonus away points if we are to have a happy summer break.

Reading are a club that are in the ascendency, it seems, and it was with this forlorn trepidation that me and MrsB saddled up the proverbial pony and headed off down to the Den to see if the remarkable away win at Burnley could be the start of something that might closely resemble a faint pulse beating at the heart of a recovery.

Reading as a footballing fraternity is about as convincing as a Ken Dodd tax return, they are the very essence of a ‘plastic’ football club. The term ‘happy clappy’ could easily be conveyed as “Reading are a good example of this” to the enquiring mind of a yet to be educated young Millwall fan of what is definitely not the Millwall way.

Evidence, if needed, was given before the kick off as they started that infernal and some may say, shoulder biting/window licking activity whereby the left side of the group chant that they are the left side followed by the right say proudly displaying their geographical fortitude in the same manner. I swear you could hear the dribble hitting their chins as they sang.

Me and MrsB exchanged sorry glances at each other and settled into our new seats in the East Lower. Yes, old age and arthritis is taking its toll on this tired old hack and the stairway to heaven up to Block 16 back row could soon become a distant memory as we embark on a grand tour of various seating areas to see if we can move from our spiritual home.

The view aint too shabby from the lower east side and the fans around us were not too bad so we settled down to see what Mr Jackett had in store for us.

No changes from the Burnley starting XI so we began in a positive 4-4-2 frame of mind with Forde in goal, Craig, Robbo, Lowry and Dunne as the back four, Henry, Abdou, Wright and Bouazza in the mid section leaving Keogh and Kane up front.

No sign of Henderson as he is being ‘rested due to a knock’, one assumes, ahead of his impending date with the magistrates?

Anyway, Referee Sarginson got the game going as around 10,000 home fans roared their approval as the Lions took the game to visitors from the first kick.

We looked polished and in control and it was Reading who were concentrating on the defences as we swept down field at them at every given opportunity.

James Henry looked fired up against his former club and was soon in a personal battle with ageing potato headed, snub nosed, bog trotter Ian Harte but still managed to get in a couple of decent efforts despite the amateurish clogging of Harte.

We didn’t have to wait too long for the breakthrough that we so deserved and it was good combination work from the front two that reaped the rewards as Kane’s clever flick on saw Keogh beat the last line of defence and he sprinted towards goal and easily slipped the ball past the despairing dive of Federici and into the back of the net. 1-0! And well deserved it was too!

It got a little bit patchy after this as Reading decided to kick lumps out of us and in particular the retarded inbred Harte, raking his studs down James Henry’s back which was completely missed by referee Sarginson and his not so trusty lino.

Henry was apoplectic with rage and his ranting at the bemused ref got him a yellow card. The ref just did not see the foul but how his assistant missed it, I’ll never know. Henry even showed the ref the marks but by now Sarginson had made his mind up and cautioned the winger for his outburst.

The football that was being played was, clearly, being played by the Lions as we kept on the gas throughout the first half, with Henry still looking like his old self, whipping in crosses and taking men on, we were desperately unlucky not to get a second when one of his crosses found Keogh’s head but the striker just failed to connect with the goal gaping wide in front of him.

Bouazza was looking more up for it as well and when he jinked inside his marker and found a bit of room to unleash a fierce drive, it had Federici all over the shop and he just managed to collect the loose ball from a lurking Kane.

Henry whizzed in a free kick that again had Federici scrambling across his goal but the ball went wide of the target and then, as we drifted into stoppage time, disaster struck.

An unnecessary corner (Bouazza’s attempted clearance ricocheted off of Tony Craig’s back) was hooked into the area and we saw again, the limited ability of our beleaguered goalkeeper. He opted for the punch (yet again) which is clearly not his forte, and the weak effort failed to clear our penalty area but even worse landed right into the feet of Reading’s Robson-Kanu who controlled it well and walloped it into the back of the net. 1-1.

The whistle for half time went soon after and the euphoria was drained out of the players and fans as we contemplated another half of football gone to waste due to a reckless moment of madness.

The second half had the air of catastrophe written all over it from the start and the doom and gloom brigade were probably already writing the epitaphs as the game got under way.

We flattered to deceive for a bit with Bouazza failing with a not so trade mark free kick and Henry, still very busy indeed, saw another of his shots fizz wide of the upright and when Kane just failed to connect with a lovely little free kick from Henry, I am afraid we all began to realise how this was going to pan out.

To be honest, you would not have thought Reading were a team battling for a top two spot. They looked very ordinary and bereft of any semblance of attacking football. They soaked up what we had to offer though and looked to catch us out on the break but we were dealing comfortably with the few times that they tried this.

Now when Reading took off Hunt and Glenville Le Fronde took to the pitch I groaned inwardly. This man, you may recall, was subject to a lot of debate post season and he was mooted as the replacement for Morison. Opinion was divided and to be honest, it looked like the Nay Sayers were correct as Le Fronde has delivered a piss poor return for Reading, netting only 6 goals all season (unlike Henderson who has left him in a cloud of four star), but if anyone was going to nail our coffin lid shut then this was the man.

And, of course, he duly obliged, albeit in very dubious circumstances. A hopeful punt out of defence saw Le Fronde at least five yards beyond out last line of defence. Craig nonchalantly raised his hand for the off side but it never came. Instead Roberts went after the ball and he was very clearly on side. Le Fronde turned on his heels and raced goal wards as Forde seemingly was trotting out to get ready to take the free kick from the off side.

Seeing Le Fronde running made Forde hesitate and start back pedalling and suddenly we were in no mans land. Roberts simply squared the ball to Le Fronde who tapped the ball into the net. 1-2. Good grief!

It knocked the stuffing out of us. We looked like an insecure side now with relegation haunting us. We lost our way and we lost our conviction as everything we tried failed miserably.

Jackett brought on N’Guessan for Kane and Mason for Henry but it was all a waste of time and effort to be brutally honest. We looked beaten the minute their second goal went in.

Keogh missed a shot and Craig headed a point blanker straight at Federici which really was a perfect summing up of our fortunes.

The final whistle brought some boos and some jeers but all in all I think we realised for the majority, that we had been mugged (and not for the first time) by a side pushing for promotion but in reality were no better than us at all.

Will we ever win a home game again this season? Rick Parfitt and Frank Rossi must be cursing the lack of PRS cheques as well as ‘Rocking all over the world’ is yet to have an airing for a league game in 2012!

We have no time to wallow in self pity though as two away games are up in quick succession with a visit to Peterborough on Tuesday night and a trip to Forest on Saturday.

I will be there to watch and record my musings so hopefully I will see some of you there?
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    Excellent report, many thanks