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Millwall 0-4 Reading: London Balling

Sim’s take on a top, top night in Bermondsey.

Millwall v Reading - Carabao Cup First Round Photo by Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

The best way to practice writing something you're unfamiliar with is repetition. So here goes:

"Reading played really well and won a game of football."

"Reading played really well and won a game of football."

"Reading played really well and won a game of football."

It's been a while, hasn't it? It's been ages since we last saw Reading win a match - late February to be exact. That game, a 3-1 win over Blackpool, was a good but not brilliant performance. Go back further and you'll find Reading's last "away win" - a scrappy 2-1 at Hull City in November 2022.

I simply cannot remember the last time Reading played really well away from home, won the game and won it comfortably. Well, until Tuesday night at The Den that is.

This contest was built up as something of a bonus pre-season fixture, with Reading needing an extra bit of practice under their belts after a chaotic summer. In reality it played out as the polar-opposite kind of game: this performance was nigh-on flawless and surely not that far off the finished product.

From start to finish, Reading were fantastic. Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan slotted home for the opener after about a minute, sending the away end into shocked delight, and the Royals never looked back.

Supposedly this should have been, as with every other first-round League Cup match in recent years, boys against men. We've gotten too used to watching a rookie Reading side short of confidence be seen off by more experienced, streetwise opposition - be it Swansea City in 2021/22 or Stevenage in 2022/23.

But on Tuesday night, Reading flipped the script. This time Reading were in control, Reading were the adults in the room.

There's no better indication of that than just how untested Coniah Boyce-Clarke was in the first half. Except for one straightforward stop in his bottom right corner, he may as well have not bothered putting his gloves on.

The team in front of him may not have been at their very best going forwards in the first half (that came later), but their defensive resilience, focus and organisation couldn't be faulted. Ruben Selles should be delighted by just how stubbornly solid they were, facing down a strong Millwall side - be it in open play, on counters or from set pieces.

Again, this was a young team. Debutants Tyler Bindon (centre-back) and Matty Carson (left-back) lined up alongside Nelson Abbey (centre-back) and Amadou Mbengue (right-back) - the latter two youngsters themselves. Abbey and Bindon in particular though were fantastic, oozing composure and maturity both in and out of possession. No panicking when facing down a Millwall attack, no rushing when playing out.

In truth, the second half is a bit of a blur. My grip on reality seemed to slide as, with disbelief, I watched Reading make it 2-0, then 3-0 and finally 4-0 as Ehibhatiomhan, Charlie Savage and Mamadi Camara took turns to add to the rout in front of the away end.

For the first of those goals, Reading won the ball back in midfield and countered, Caylan Vickers’ effort from a tight angle was saved, the ball trickled towards the line and Ehibhatiomhan pounced to make sure the Royals went 2-0 up. For the second, Savage’s free-kick from just outside the box should probably have been saved (the ‘keeper did get a hand to it), but take nothing away from a well placed strike that still nestled in the top corner. And for the third, Basil Tuma squirmed in behind and squared the ball for the onrushing Camara, who duly completed the battering from point-blank range.

Down the other end, Reading stood strong. Millwall grew into the contest and exerted pressure, but the Royals were equal to all of it. Boyce-Clarke kept out any shots the hosts could muster, including some standout stops late on, and I'm delighted for his sake that he managed to seal that clean sheet. That bit is just as impressive as the four goals down the other end.

All in all, it presents one hell of a headache for Ruben Selles. He's now a load of selection dilemmas heading into Saturday's game at Port Vale, and I really don't envy the decisions he's going to have to make.