Reading need to start picking up wins to climb away from the bottom three, but getting one against Saturday’s visitors is a tricky prospect. Gary Rowett’s side have won their last four games on the bounce, sit a very respectable 11th in the Championship, and picked up all three points the last time they came to Berkshire.
To preview how much of a challenge they’ll pose this time round, we spoke to Millwall fan and writer Lucas Ball. You can find him on Twitter @LucasBall2211.
How would you sum up this season so far?
A little disappointing, though recent results have picked up. We’ve been plagued with injuries all season and are down to something like 14 senior outfielders, some of those continuing with niggles and fitness issues as they can’t be rested.
We’ve not been able to play well enough consistently enough with those issues, with the lack of rotation seriously hampering us. Tactics sometimes have been a little too defensive for many’s liking, but Gary Rowett has done a decent job still all things considered.
In the summer you said play-offs had to be the aim - without a doubt. What needs to improve if you’re to finish in the top six?
The number of muscle and repeat injuries suggest to me that there are issues within our fitness/physio/sports science departments, in all truth - so perhaps more for next season, those areas and/or facilities. I’m sure the facilities will be much better whenever the new training ground is built.
We need to be more clinical in matches when we’re on top. Too often this season we’ve not taken our chances and then fallen behind, so that’s probably the main thing. We’ve been solid enough defensively again, particularly recently, so that’s remained a relative strength.
What are the main strengths of this Millwall side?
Defensively, as above, we’re quite good for the most part though Shaun Hutchinson will be missing this weekend.
We’re good on the transition with Danny McNamara developing into an excellent wing-back and Scott Malone a threat on the other side, though he’s not been at his best in this campaign. Jed Wallace is, obviously, the main man and stopping him will be key particularly with our forward options so depleted.
Any weaknesses Reading can look to exploit?
If we stick with the 5-2-1-2 as in recent matches, the midfield can be overrun at times, which means one of the centre backs might have to step out, potentially leaving room in behind.
How do you expect Millwall to set up on Saturday?
We’ll probably pick up more injuries between the time of writing and the match, but I’ll go with this set-up:
5-2-1-2: Bialkowski; McNamara, Ballard, Cooper, M. Wallace, Malone; Mitchell, Saville; J. Wallace; Afobe, Burey
We’ll look to hit on the counter as usual, with Jed the main threat. Burey’s pace will pose issues for your back line too, so his runs in behind - as well as his direct dribbling - could wreak havoc.
How will Millwall’s season play out from here?
Hopefully, we can just carry on with the recent upturn in performances and see where it takes us. Play-offs aren’t impossible but with all the injuries I’m certainly not focusing on that as a target. Another solid mid-table finish ahead of a busy summer would be decent given the issues we’ve faced.
Do you think Reading have enough to stay up?
With the quality in the squad, yes - but I’m less than convinced by the interim appointment of Paul Ince and confidence will be very low within the squad. You need a couple of wins sooner rather than later, but pick those up and you’ll be fine. With players coming back from injury in the next couple of weeks, I’d just about back Reading to beat the drop.
How will the game go and what will the score be?
We’ll probably end up having slightly more of the ball than we’d like, and may have to rely on Jed doing something special. I think it’ll be a case of us having to work hard to break you down given our attacking options, but I’ll go for another Millwall win after a couple of good results at the SCL Stadium in the last few years.
I think we’ll take a while to get a goal and add another late on as you chase the game; transitions are one of our strengths with Jed and Burey. It would also be the first time Rowett’s ever won five consecutive league games as a manager.
Reading 0-2 Millwall