Five Things: Reading - Millwall

Richard Heathcote

The dust has settled after the disappointment of the draw with Millwall - now let's look at our five takeaways from the game for the Reading team.

1. Without Danny Guthrie, we look lost

Difficult to say that without our deep-lying midfielder we look inept, but that's exactly what happened on Saturday. Nadjim Abdou stuck to Guthrie constantly, shut him down at every opportunity, and basically made sure he didn't get the time and space on the ball to be the creative influence he has been in the last few matches.

Of course, anyone who had seem the game tape of any of our recent matches would learn this very quickly - credit to Millwall and Steve Lomas for this simple but effective tactical nuance. It's likely to be a scheme employed by many a manager over the next few weeks; Nigel Adkins' job is to find a way to free up Guthrie, or someone else to run the show.

2. The squad lacks leaders

This was especially important when it came to the last ten minutes or so, but also quite noticeable throughout the game. Sean Morrison is captain, Alex Pearce has been for a few matches, and club captain Jobi McAnuff came off the bench for the final period of the game. But with our backs to the wall for pretty much the entire game, the team needed that figure to inspire them and make them get their ideas together, as it proved in the end that a one-goal lead was not enough.

Just like a few weeks ago at Barnsley, and indeed heading into the final 15 minutes at home to Watford, we've given in to pressure and dropped points.

3. We can't expect teams to roll over

Perhaps this is partly on the fans too, but at the last few home games there's been a strange atmosphere; almost an expectancy that Reading will turn up, bang a few goals past a hapless goalkeeper from an inferior side, then we all go home happy. That happened against Doncaster, but only once they'd been reduced to ten men. Similar against Birmingham, who barely had a shot on goal all game and we comfortably ran out 2-0 winners.

But Millwall proved that a lower side can come to the Mad Stad and play - and, indeed, dominate the game. Even at 1-0 in the first half, the fans were getting irate at Reading's inability to keep the ball - hopefully this will be a lesson learnt, as the next visitors to the Madejski, QPR, certainly want to fight for the points.

Even away from home there seems a similar notion - but both Barnsley (23rd) and Bolton (21st) held us to draws.

4. No killer instinct

Yes, we may be playing a different brand of football now, where slow and patient build up is the order of the day, and charging forward at pace frowned upon. But for 90+1 minutes of that match, there was no killer instinct, no impetus, and no gut-busting runs to make space and get forward. It was only once Reading conceded that suddenly there was a desire to pour men forward, rather than protect a fragile one-goal lead.

Reading did have the best chances on the day, it must be said. An Alfie shot which hit the post, a few attempts into the side netting, and a couple of good saves from Forde in the Millwall goal. But one goal proved not to be enough in the end. Whether it's getting the men forward and playing on the front foot, or actually finishing off these chances, it needs to be perfected - and quickly.

5. The hardest is yet to come

Of the 13 matches Reading have played so far, 5 have been against top-12 sides. Those results? Losses at Burnley and Blackpool, a draw at home to Watford, and victories against Derby and Leeds. Had we snatched a draw at Bloomfield Road, we'd swap positions with them; hold on for victory against Watford too, and we're suddenly just three points away from 2nd, rather than six.

The question now is, which Reading will turn up in November? Reading head to Hillsborough next to face bottom-of-the-table Sheffield Wednesday, but the Royals have already slipped up and dropped points at 23rd placed Barnsley and 21st placed Bolton Wanderers. Then it's QPR (3rd) on the box at Fortress Madejski, followed by trips to Blackburn (12th) and Nottingham Forest (6th). November will show us the true mettle of this team - three tricky away days and a home match with the fake hoops.

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