A night under the lights!
Reading are in Championship action once again tonight as they travel to the English capital to face Millwall, looking to prevent a fourth consecutive league loss after a disappointing run of games.
A 1-0 win against Barnsley in the middle of last month looked to set them on course for a bright campaign, but losses against Blackpool, Blackburn Rovers and AFC Bournemouth since has only gone on to lower morale at the Select Car Leasing Stadium and a win this evening would be much needed and much appreciated.
This won’t be easy against a side that secured a 2-1 away win at Sheffield United not so long ago though, especially with the Royals’ current injury crisis. With these injuries and the fact the away side’s manager has Covid, they probably come into this game as underdogs as they make the short trip to The Den.
Can they win at least a point tonight? I’ll tell you at about 9:30 tonight.
For now, here are the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this midweek clash under the lights.
What? Championship Matchday 16
Where? The Den
When? Tuesday 2nd November 2021
Opposition Manager? Gary Rowett
Losing just four of their opening 15 league fixtures so far this season, Millwall fans should be reasonably satisfied with their current position and their respectable standing is largely due to their reasonably solid defence. Operating with a back three and two central midfielders, the Lions will be tough to break down and will no doubt keep a clean sheet if the visitors fail to create enough and/or take their chances.
Not only have they got former Reading academy graduate Jake Cooper in their backline, but also Daniel Ballard who impressed at Blackpool last term and Shaun Hutchinson who is probably one of the most underrated players in the second tier.
Jed Wallace (who was born in Reading) in attack is another player to keep an eye on. Scoring five times and registering four assists in 13 Championship games so far this season, he is someone I will talk a bit more about in the next section. Nullifying him could be the difference between point(s) and no points tonight, but it will be a tough match regardless against a solid, steady and stable club.
Fair play to the team, they actually put on a decent showing in the first half on Saturday night and did reasonably well at times, even creating a couple of chances. On the evening, AFC Bournemouth’s ruthlessness in front of goal proved to be the difference. The first goal was a bit of a shambles really and was defended poorly. Leaving both Gary Cahill and Dominic Solanke unmarked was criminal and that opener gave them the platform to go on and claim the three points.
I have to admit Luke Southwood’s positioning for the second was slightly suspect, but that move shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Danny Drinkwater will hopefully bounce back from this though - and George Puscas will still be feeling awful for his missed chances. I hate giving up on players and I’m not willing to give up on the 25-year-old just yet - but does he start tonight if the likes of Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite are available? The answer is a solid no for me - but we can only hope he gets on the scoresheet at some point in the future. When that is, I have no idea.
On Pauno, best wishes to him, thankfully he only has mild symptoms. Having him absent will be a blow, but good luck to Marko Mitrovic.
One to Watch: Jed Wallace
Wallace is a major danger with his nine goal contributions in 13 league matches this term - and has been a consistent figure for Rowett’s men throughout the last couple of seasons.
His contract runs out next summer which must be a huge source of concern for the second-tier side’s fans, because they are arguably quite reliant on him to provide the bulk of their goals whether he’s scoring or sticking them away himself. It would be hard to see him signing fresh terms at The Den at this stage, especially if a Premier League team comes in for him in the winter window in an attempt to negotiate a cut-price deal for the former Wolves man.
He’s one for the Royals to keep an eye out tonight.
The Last Meeting
Reading 1-2 Millwall
- Despite their decent away record overall, they have conceded nine goals in eight home games in the league so far this season. This will give the Royals some hope.
- The Lions have also claimed just 12 points from a possible 24 at The Den thus far in 2021/22. A respectable total but not a formidable one.
- Reading have won just two points from a possible 15 against Millwall in the last five meetings at The Den.
- The Royals have won just seven of their last 26 league games - not a pretty stat to say the least but something they can improve on.
My Reading lineup (3-5-1-1): Southwood, Rahman, Moore, Dann, Laurent, Yiadom, Drinkwater, Dele-Bashiru, Swift, Ejaria, Puscas
That’s it, time for a change. It may seem strange to make this alteration after a defeat to top-of-the-table Bournemouth, because it wasn’t a disastrous scoreline. But we need unpredictability if we want to have any chance of coming out on top again tonight so the 3-5-1-1 formation comes into play.
Luke Southwood starts as per, although he does need to watch his positioning. It was particularly poor for Jamal Lowe’s goal at the weekend - and I’m sure that’s something that has been picked up on when the Royals watched the game back.
Baba Rahman and Andy Yiadom will be given more license to get down their flanks, something that could suit Felipe Araruna if/when he returns to first-team action. Having just one fit senior full-back on each side terrifies me, especially with the African Cup of Nations coming up. But we are where we are - and both are talented enough to make an impact going forward.
Liam Moore and Scott Dann continue in defence again, but Josh Laurent drops back in at centre-back having played reasonably well there earlier in the season. Why him instead of Tom Holmes? I love Holmes, but the thought of Yiadom being high up the pitch and someone like Jed Wallace running at him on the counter terrifies me. Laurent should give us a bit more speed in defence.
With Laurent dropping back and this system change, Tom Dele-Bashiru returns to the centre alongside Danny Drinkwater, with this being the Watford loanee’s best position. Drinkwater ideally needs more protection to compensate for his errors, so having three at the back will help and could allow TDB to drive forward with John Swift.
Swift starts in a slightly deeper position but still has the license to get forward, something that would probably suit him considering he likes to take the ball from deep at times. This was something he did against Cardiff for Junior Hoilett’s goal.
In a new position for Ovie Ejaria, he sits just behind George Puscas as a support figure and that could help to enhance both players’ performance levels. You could arguably afford to put Jahmari Clarke in there considering Ejaria is close by for support.
The system might seem crackers. But trust me, I’m not on the sauce just yet. Perhaps too much FIFA? I admit I like using this formation on my career mode at times, but I’m using this system because I feel like it could suit many players. Whether that can translate into a cohesive game plan remains to be seen though.
Other Championship Fixtures
Tuesday 2nd November:
Birmingham City vs Bristol City
Coventry City vs Swansea City
Luton Town vs Middlesbrough
Nottingham Forest vs Sheffield United
Peterborough United vs Huddersfield Town (All 7:45pm KO)
Wednesday 3rd November:
Barnsley vs Derby County
Blackburn Rovers vs Fulham
Blackpool vs Stoke City
AFC Bournemouth vs Preston North End
Cardiff City vs Queens Park Rangers (All 7:45pm KO)
West Bromwich Albion vs Hull City (8pm KO)