A mid-table side with hopes of getting into the play-offs, heavily relying on the output of an attacking midfielder (first name beginning with J) whose contract expires in the summer. So, Tuesday night’s opposition Millwall aren’t all that dissimilar to Reading. They’re not that far away in the table either: four places and two points ahead of the Royals.
How’s the season gone for you so far?
It’s been a really mixed bag, to be honest. If you look at the table, you’d think it’s a decent start - not too far off the top six when to challenge for those spots was the aim this season.
However, the football has at times been contained and a little boring to watch, despite picking up some good results. Away from home, that’s not as much of an issue because it’s just about grinding out results but at home, there has been vocal frustration from the fans and understandably so at times.
When we have switched to 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 in game at home, we’ve looked much better and been on the front foot, which encourages the crowd and then further encourages the players as a result but Gary Rowett doesn’t seem to want to move away from the 5-2-3 to start games.
What have Millwall’s home form and performances been like - has the return of fans been a boost?
It’s been a boost when we’ve been chasing games and allowed us to create longer spells of pressure - usually in the 4-4-2 - which just wasn’t possible without supporters to anywhere near the same degree.
When we’re on the front foot, the fans have been a huge boost but given some of our tepid, restrained displays, there’s also been a lot of vocal frustration as mentioned above.
Jed Wallace is way out in front for you on goals and assists so far - how important is he to this side?
Without Jed, it’s not inconceivable that we could be in a relegation battle - he’s that important to our attacking play. Almost everything positive goes through him in some way and the thought of him potentially leaving on a free this summer is one I’m airbrushing from my mind until the end of the season.
We’ve tried to reduce the burden on him in the last couple of years with the additions of players like Benik Afobe, Connor Mahoney, Mason Bennett and Sheyi Ojo but that’s not quite come to fruition just yet.
What are Millwall’s main strengths?
Generally, we’re defensively sound though we have conceded more sloppy goals this season than in the last couple of years. The front three - if it includes Tom Bradshaw - can press quite well so that can help us to win the ball in dangerous positions if we don’t sit off as much in a mid/low-block.
What weaknesses can Reading exploit?
I think Billy Mitchell will start in midfield with George Saville so there’s no naturally defensive midfielder in there, which can create issues. Both Billy and Sav provide lots of energy but the likes of Maikel Kieftenbeld or George Evans just play more of a holding role in front of the back three and close down that space, so there could be room to exploit there.
We don’t score a lot of goals generally and given the poor home displays, if Reading get ahead then the crowd’s frustrations will be in plain sight so Reading would need to take advantage of that.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
I’m hopeful that Rowett will start with a 4-4-2 but I think it’ll be a 5-2-3 again. In the five-back, we’ll sit off and look to hit you on the counter to nick a goal.
We generally don’t have too much of the ball which concerns me against a team whose midfield includes Danny Drinkwater and John Swift, so we need to be hot on pressing those two particularly and not giving them too much space.
I’d love to predict a Millwall win but I’ll go for a draw - 1-1.