I don’t know what Reading Football Club did in its past life, but whatever it was, the footballing gods sure don’t approve of it. Anything that possibly can go wrong for us at the moment is going wrong. And tonight just piled on the pressure even more.
The news of Pauno testing positive for Covid on Monday night was followed by the team news announcement tonight showing no sign of either Danny Drinkwater or Andy Yiadom. With the club confirming that all other tests apart from the gaffer’s were negative, we can only assume that that’s another two injuries to add to an already very overcrowded treatment table.
Because of those two absentees, the pack was forced into a bit of a reshuffle. This led to young Tyrell Ashcroft getting his debut at right-wing back and a switch of formation to what turned out to be a 3-5-2. Different, but different is what we’ve been crying out for recently.
The game itself ebbed and flowed from the start. The hosts launched a tirade on our goal for the first 20 minutes or so. However, the new back three of Holmes, Dann and Moore stood strong and weathered the storm pretty well.
Once that threat was dealt with, we began to grow into the game pretty nicely. Swifty started finding some nice pockets of space, as did his mate Ovie who had moved inside as part of a midfield three. Up top, Puski was making himself more than a nuisance too. As the half went on, the only team who looked like scoring was us.
However, it was Saturday night all over again. We forged numerous good opportunites but let ourselves down with the last detail. Ovie should’ve scored on the brink of half time (or at least hit the bloody target, something we didn’t manage to do all game), and you started to feel that these moments would come back to haunt us.
On the contrary to how as the first half went on we grew more and more into it, the second half was the exact opposite. Millwall switched to their more familiar three at the back, and from the on we just couldn't get a foothold.
Whenever Millwall got the ball in attacking areas they just played with more impetus. Everything was a couple of knots quicker than when we had the ball. Millwall just looked hungrier and more energised.
However, we did manage to get Swift in some decent areas on a couple of occasions, but on both of those Swifty decided to try and grab the headlines when a pass through to Puscas was SURELY the better option.
Puski’s confidence is at rock bottom as it is, but when his team mates simply don’t pass to him when he’s in goalscoring areas, that must be an absolute killer for him. I really feel for him at the moment, he’s going through a really difficult period.
Eventually, the hosts’ efforts were rewarded, and deservedly so you have to say. Benik Afobe tapped home to put them 1-0 up. It had been coming since the second half started in all honesty.
Then another bamboozling tactical decision from Pauno came. In response to going 1-0 down, Pauno (albeit from his sofa at home probably) brought off Puscas and brought on Clarke. I mean, the sub itself didn’t surprise anyone. Puscas may as well walk off the pitch anytime around the 75 minute mark.
However, George was having one of his best games of the season, and even if he wasn’t, surely you keep on as many attacking players as you can when you’re chasing the game? We had three centre backs on the pitch; any one of those should’ve been withdrawn.
Another bemusing sub followed when Ovie (who I thought was also playing pretty well in centre midfield) was taken off for Camara. Again, nothing against Camara coming on - in fact, I’m pretty happy he did because it assured everyone that he was actually alive. But don’t take Ovie off.
By this point, the biggest news of the night had started circulating on Twitter - news that affects our season a lot, lot more than a 1-0 loss away to Millwall. It’s been coming hasn't it. It looks like we’re about to receive a nine-point deduction, with another three suspended.
I mean, there’s rubbing salt into the wounds, but then there’s this. Morale will be low after four straight losses and three games without a goal, Dai’s probably trying to find a loophole in the rules so he can build a club hospital to deal with all our injuries, our manager has Covid-19 and now this. The icing on the most depressing cake the world has ever seen.
This is a really tough patch for the club. If we’re not careful it could spiral pretty quickly. I remember saying when we went on our unbeaten season earlier in the season that a points deduction at that point wouldn’t have been a big issue. We were playing well, scoring goals and winning games. Morale was high.
However, if the deduction is as imminent as some rumours suggest, the timing now couldn’t be any worse. We have more players in the treatment room than on the pitch (I don’t even want to talk about Moore going down injured at the full time whistle), and we’re on a bad run of form and showing little sign of getting out of it anytime soon.
A bad, bad night. The players need to find something inside them to conjure up a response in time for Saturday. Going into the international break off the back of five straight defeats with a looming nine-point deduction isn’t exactly what you want to be doing.