For seven blissful minutes, all seemed well again for Jaap Stam’s Reading. 1-0 up at Millwall thanks to Dave Edwards goal, everything seemed rosy, only for two late George Saville strikes to send us to our worst Championship start in eight years.
Here’s the key details, with a full report & ratings to follow in the next 24 hours.
Jaap Stam made one change to his starting lineup but it wasn’t the one many Reading fans had been hoping for, as Saturday’s goalscorer Jon Dadi Bodvarsson was again left on the bench. Instead, Tiago Ilori replaced Liam Kelly, with the Irishman dropping down to the bench.
As you might expect, such a defensively minded lineup wasn’t one which inspired a great deal of entertainment for long periods of this match. The good thing was that they were fairly solid, restricting Millwall to half chances and speculative efforts.
Roy Beerens and Joey van den Berg both had driving runs to create opportunities but really there was precious little for anyone to get excited about during the first half.
The second-half offered equally little, with both sides lacking the quality to carve out clear cut opportunities.
Yet with the game at 0-0 it meant that it only took one moment of quality, luck or hard work to win it and so Reading did with around 15 minutes left.
Dave Edwards was the man to do it, heading home Sone Aluko’s corner from short range to give us a vital lead.
At that stage I was re-writing this brief report to say that while it wasn’t pretty, three points is three points. Yet Millwall had other ideas and forced another re-write.
Another corner, another goal, this time Millwall’s George Saville the man to celebrate as he got on the end of Shaun Williams’ delivery to give the home fans something to cheer.
Five minutes later, it got even worse. Saville lashing home in style from long-range, although question marks remain as to how he was given so much space to shoot.
Stam threw on the likes of Bodvarsson but it was too little too late, with it ending up 2-1 to Millwall.
Had we held on from Edwards’ opener, we would have to be sitting here, eating a slice of humble pie and admitting Stam knows best. As it turned out, we’re still left to question if the plans the Reading boss is making are really having any positive impact, especially from an attacking standpoint.
It’s still early, especially in the context of when the window closed. Yet even at 1-0 up, you could hardly have called this an entertaining or convincing performance from us.
The positives would be that we did seem pretty solid for 75 minutes, yet that matters little if we cave when the pressure’s on late doors. From Fulham’s equaliser, to Aston Villa’s near comeback, Bristol City’s late winner and now this, we don’t seem to be able to close down games as we did so well last season. Defeat tonight was harsh but plenty of opposition fans would have said the same when we beat them last season.
This is Reading’s worst start to a Championship season since 2009, when another possession orientated manager struggled to pick up points. Brendan Rodgers didn’t last through December and if things stay the same, the pressure is only going to increase on Jaap Stam as well.
Reading: Mannone, Gunter, Ilori, McShane, Moore, Blackett (Clement), Van den Berg, Edwards, Beerens, McCleary (Bodvarsson), Aluko