Sometimes you just get games like this - as disappointing and deflating as that may sound. As Mark Bowen said after the game, we just ‘forgot to play’ and in all honesty Millwall did a very good job on us and had done their homework.
We never got going at all. The only player to really come out with any credit was Pele who was dragged off towards the end of the game for Garath McCleary as we had to chase the game. We defended pretty resolutely, but going forward we lacked any sort of creativity or ideas - which the state of the pitch certainly did not help, even though that should never be an excuse.
The fans turned up in decent numbers but were let down by the performance of the players - which we haven’t said in a very long time. So because of that, I feel we need to look at the bigger picture a bit more, understand this is still a work in progress and we are still in touching distance of the top six too.
Here’s how the fans reacted to some of the key talking points to come from the game...
There is not much else to say really apart from the fact that we were second best pretty much all over the pitch. Millwall are seventh for a reason; they’re a decent team and all know what they are doing.
From our perspective though, it wasn’t great at all - and I think the majority of the fans agreed with that. Poor performances all round cost us the game, John Swift and Ovie Ejaria looked off it all game and that was summed up by Swift missing Reading’s only real clear-cut chance of the game in the second half.
We defended okay, but still lost the second ball for the opening goal which Bowen will not like at all, and the manner in which we gave the ball away for the second will also not please the gaffer - and it definitely didn’t please the Loyal Royals...
One of the worst performances under Bowen. Dreadful offensively, created absolutely nothing #readingfc— Dominic (@domwindle) January 18, 2020
No plan B. Not sure there was a plan A either. Shocking performance collectively and individually. No one had a good game. A reality check. But we go again. #readingfc— Ben de Souza (@ben_deS_94) January 18, 2020
0 shots on target and 1 corner what a performance! #readingfc— George (@_GeorgeRFC) January 18, 2020
Well that was a load of rubbish. Where did that performance come from today?! #readingfc— Katherine Buckell (@kat88RFC) January 18, 2020
Really poor performance from us today but I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. Didn't test the Millwall keeper at all and it seemed like we forgot to create anything. Huge game on Wednesday now. #readingfc— Harrison Mitchell (@harrison1871rfc) January 18, 2020
Several key players didn’t click today, a few quite poor- but let’s be fair, Millwall deserved the win. Played better than us, had clearly done their homework. We weren’t unlucky and it wasn’t the ref or anything- just wasn’t our day losing to the better side #readingfc— Dave (@shakefon) January 18, 2020
Really poor performance today and it’s just such a shame that our unbeaten run now comes to an end. It was always going to be a tough match, but we didn’t help ourselves by being extremely sloppy throughout. Good effort by the players but just not good enough today #readingfc— Oli Bryant (@OliB_RFC) January 18, 2020
Shame to lose that because I think we made Millwall look better than they were. Although they totally outclassed us today in all areas but mainly due to us being so poor in all areas #readingfc— BerkshireBoys (@BerkshireBoys_) January 18, 2020
We need a new striker, it’s as simple as that. We cannot go two/three months without a similar striker to Lucas Joao or else we will make it even more difficult to make the play-offs.
Neither Sam Baldock nor George Puscas have proved they can play up front on their own in this system which has proved so successful for us in recent weeks, and with Joao out for a while now, Bowen has some serious thinking to do.
Does he revert back to 3-5-2? Or does he go to the owners and plea for another striker? I imagine he is already doing the latter. The fans certainly noticed the absence of Joao and were quick to offer their thoughts on the striker situation after seeing their team produce no shots on target...
We need a new striker for the style of play. baldock cannot do it #readingfc— Louie Mitchell (@louiemitch4) January 18, 2020
Dreadful performance, Puscas must still be carrying an injury looks awful. Howe needs to find another striker ASAP. #ReadingFC— Stuart (@fents17) January 18, 2020
If we don't get a replacement for Joao we can wave goodbye to any sort of playoff attempt. #readingfc— Ben (@BenParsons89) January 18, 2020
Unbeaten run was gonna end sooner or later. Lost to the better team. Desperately need a replacement for Joao #readingfc— Ryan (@1871Ryan) January 18, 2020
Definitely an off-day for us today, we never got going and didn't have that spark going forward. Missed the presence of João up front big time, Baldock and Pușcaș when he came on both didn't get a sniff #readingfc— Tom Maynard (@ttmaynard) January 18, 2020
Can’t help but think that Ivan Toney is a ready made Joao replacement. Would suit the formation / style perfectly. #readingfc— Tom Harrow-Smith (@tmgharrowsmith) January 19, 2020
It's simple for me, without Joao we have to play 3-5-2. Neither Baldock or Puscas can play the lone striker role in this team. With Joao we play our 4-2-3-1 and it works beautifully. No Joao return imminent so we have to get Baldock & Puscas playing together. #readingfc— Imran Escőbar (@razor5edge) January 19, 2020
No need to panic
Although the performance was bad, and we were well beaten, a large section of the fanbase remained calm and collected offering a more relaxed view on the loss.
Let’s remember we’ve just come out of our biggest unbeaten run since 2012 and we are still a good team, it was just an off day and that can happen from time to time. It’s all about how we react now, and there have been enough signs in my opinion to suggest Bowen will get them to bounce back on Wednesday...
Disappointing result today after good 9 games unbeaten but have too look at the progress we have made over the last month. Slip ups will happen and now we need to pick ourselves up and get a result on Wednesday. Come on URZZ #readingfc— ARB Reading FC (@ReadingRoyalFC) January 18, 2020
Not too much of a fan of how a collective of fans are seeming to turn on the players and the fanbase already. Today was not up to par but millwall was well organised and hard to break down. It was #Readingfc who went on the unbeaten run we did let's keep spirit high and go again pic.twitter.com/EzWOW1Dvis— Billy Clover (@billy_clover) January 18, 2020
Why the meltdown about losing away at Millwall who have 1 loss in 14 and also playing well ♂️ appreciate the 9 game unbeaten run we had.... now let’s bounce back and go again #readingfc— Samuel Kailus (@SKailus) January 19, 2020
How we react on wed night now will show home much this team have the mentality #readingfc— Jon (@jonreading35) January 18, 2020
Realistically we won’t get playoffs but still 1 loss in 10 is impressive and definitely shows we’re moving forward and in the right direction. Yes it was a poor performance but a complete overreaction to today. In Bowen we trust. #readingfc— Louis Stagg (@dinglouis_) January 18, 2020
No need to panic at all. We’re still a good team and are still within touching distance of the play-offs if we get a decent result on Wednesday against Forest.
Still moving the right direction and that’s the main thing and it’s all about the reaction and I for one believe we will get it.