Millwall 0-3 Reading ~ Match Musings

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Those of you that know me will have probably heard me say at some point, in regards to following Millwall, always manage your expectations and never more was that particularly pearl of wisdom evident as we saw free scoring Reading turn up at the Den to scupper any notion of miraculous transformations with the new management regime.

Reading are flying at the moment, their plastic fan base will glide off into the sunset if they are not careful, they are fast becoming the yoyo team of the moment between top flight and Championship but nothing can erase the god awful cringe factor that these creatures imbue into the football world in general.

An odious manager at the helm, he appears to be one surreptitious wink away from a knock on the door by the yew tree mob, they are clearly a match made in some sort of perverse version of a heaven.

They deserve each other but deserve no pity because their star is shining at the moment and in truth it was not a good time for us to be playing them.

Still, Mr Holloway is not lacking in belief and a couple of new signings jollied the 11,000 odd crowd along and even though they couldn’t play we got to meet them before kick off as Deano introduced them to the crowd. Ed Upson, a ‘box to box’ midfielder signed from Yeovil to replace Trotter who has gone on to smaller and lesser things at Bolton and a striker whose name is actually known to most of the Millwall fans, Simeon Jackson, no less to take the place of Keogh who has also departed for pastures new.

The actual starting eleven named by Mr Holloway, it is fair to say, had the Roger Moore effect on the majority of the crowd, (raised eyebrow syndrome). Of course, we are stuck with Bywater in goal until Forde recovers (maybe even third choice Denzil Gerrar might get a game before Forde finally recovers), a back four without the banned Lowry saw Beevers take the vacant slot alongside Shittu with Fredericks and Malone as the full backs. The midfield was where the chin stroking took place. Williams and Wright with Woolford joining them and according to “last man” Standing, a front three of Campbell, Morison and Feeney…

Interesting times…

The ref got the game underway as we were still contemplating the line-up and the initial thoughts were that actually, we weren’t looking too shabby. Campbell had a half chance that brought a comfortable stop for the Royal’s ‘keeper, McCarthy. We were given a sharp reminder of how lethal this Reading team could be though with their first real attack, McAnuff creating room to whip a dangerous ball right across the face of the Millwall goal and then shortly after a shot from their Williams saw Bywater save comfortably.

We still went at them though with Campbell again looking busy and Morison chipping in with an attempt that kept McCarthy busy enough even though the shot whistled narrowly over the bar.

We were keeping them at arms length’s for a good thirty minutes or so and the “free scoring” team seemed unable to make any headway against us at all. The nearest they got to a sniff at goal was a long range free kick that Bywater did well to save.

We then saw “goal machine” Le Fronde miss a simple chance by hitting a gilt edged chance well wide with the goal at his mercy.

We were still causing them problems though and Woolford had a very good effort go just wide after Reading were still faffing about after making a substitution for an injured player.

But what happened next was probably a perfect illustration of how this season has been at times for the luckless Lions. Close to half time with things looking reasonably comfortable, disaster didn’t exactly strike, it was more or less invited in for a cup of tea and a slice of coconut cake with a cherry on it.

A hopeful high ball into our box was going nowhere except into the arms of Bywater and with no one really challenging him it was just a bread and butter catch…

He fucking dropped it.

Not only did he drop it, he dropped it right to the feet of Reading’s Pogrebnyak who gleefully side stepped the stricken ‘keeper and fired into the net. 0-1.

Bywater then became the pantomime villain for large sections of the home crowd, booing and catcalling his every move. I do not subscribe to this vindictive stuff against our own players but by Christ and all that is holy, Bywater must be on borrowed time now.

The outfield players succumbed to the crowd’s displeasure with the beleaguered ‘keeper and it clearly had affected them. Reading also picked up on this and their tails were now up and they nearly bagged a second goal soon after, Le Fronde again failing to connect when the goal was at his mercy.

The half time whistle was a welcome relief to give us time to regroup and go again…

No changes from Mr Holloway for the start of the second half ( I think some hopeful Lions fans were expecting to see Bywater subbed) and we started off again in a positive mode, minutes into the half saw Morison pick out a neat little pass to set Feeney off and running but the winger probably took his shot too early and although on target he gave McCarthy every chance to save low down.

Reading were slowly but surely killing the game off and we were struggling at times just to get sight of the ball, a change was needed and Mr Holloway made it around the hour mark and he took off Wright and Feeney and sent on Martin and Easter to see if we could break up the Reading game plan and try and get the equalising goal.

Ten more minutes of stalemate ensued so the die was thrown for the last time and this change really got the eyebrows dancing a jig of biblical proportions. In fact, chins were rubbed raw by the great and the good around the home sections as we watched in abject terror as Beevers went off and Marquis came on…

If disaster has to have a capital D when used within a structured sentence then this was the time to use it.

What Mr Holloway had basically done is sacrifice the midfield and defence in a gung ho move to try and grab an equaliser. We now had Morison, Campbell, Easter and Marquis as four strikers with Woolford. Williams and Martin in Midfield leaving Shittu with Malone and Frederick’s at his side.

Capital D all over it…

There is a fine line between bravery and stupidity and I have no idea where this line gets drawn, only the instigators will know and I am sure Mr Holloway, for all his faults, will know now what his line is in regards to what his current crop of players can do. I’ll say no more on the subject.

As expected, Reading couldn’t really contain their collective glee, they almost immediately picked us apart like vultures on a rotting carcass and although Bywater almost did something to repair his now almost untenable position as our ‘keeper by saving well from the busy Pogrebnyak the loose ball fell to Pearce who walloped the ball into the net for 0-2.

Droves of home fans got up and walked out in an admirable show of camaraderie and “we are in this together” type of affectation.

More followed a minute or two later as Reading sealed the victory with a well taken third goal. Bywater again saving the first attempt but not the follow up as their Williams netted. 0-3.

The fans that stayed saw Bywater make at least one more decent save to prevent a fourth goal from a McAnuff shot but it did little to appease and I don’t think Bywater will get any kudos ever again at Millwall even if he saves ten penalties and scores a winner in the next ten games.

We almost got a consolation goal when Marquis got his head to a ball but McCarthy tipped the ball away for a corner that invariably produced nothing of note.

The final whistle was a stark reality check for Mr Holloway, he will know he cocked this up, he don’t need us telling him and I’d wager he won’t repeat this mistake as long as we ever again.

If we are brutally honest, we were never really going to get anything from this game and if we did it would have been a huge bonus. Our season hinges on how we perform against our rivals for relegation and as long as we get it right against the likes of Yeovil, Bolton, Charlton, Barnsley et al.

I still believe we will escape the drop, Burnley away next will not define our season so manage your expectations my friends and don’t be too hard on the new man in charge.

“But here's some advice, boy. Don't put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That's why they're called revolutions.”
Terry Pratchett,
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    Sums it up well. Cheers FF