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Millwall 1-1 Reading

Finally, something other than a defeat. One point from a possible fifteen is not a brilliant return, but it's a start.

Initially, Millwall cut off all passes except the pass across to Morrison

Millwall cut off the pass back to Moore, and look to force Morrison to go long

In the first half Reading struggled to get any real purchase in the game. Troy Parrott and Ben Thompson made it hard to play out from the back. The responsibility of progressing the ball fell to the full-backs, though Scott Malone and Jed Wallace also tried to starve them of time. We know what Omar Richards can do at this point, but Tom Holmes also had a good game. In his last spell in the team, Holmes was far too cautious with the ball, but at The Den found a number of good forward balls into Meite.

Having an extra man completely negates the Millwall press. Splitting the CBs mean that the Millwall strikers have to start wider, allowing the pass into midfield. Pressing Laurent leaves an easy ball to one of the CBs.

To make it easier to on the centre backs we switched in the second half to have Josh Laurent drop between them to pick up the ball - making it far harder for Millwall to effectively cut off all the options. That meant that Laurent sat noticeably deeper than Rinomhota, with the team switching to a 4-4-2 diamond-type shape, though the four midfielders all seemed to be on different planes. Ejaria played slightly more advanced than Rinomhota on the opposite side and Olise drifting wherever he wanted.

Semedo meanwhile was often caught out trying to press, with Millwall always having a man over in the centre.

In the opening forty-five, it was the exact opposite issue at the other end, where Semedo was trying to cover off both Ryan Woods and Shaun Williams. The attacking midfielder didn't have a good game, but in many ways, he was set up to fail defensively. On occasion his decision making in the press was poor, but the nature of the double pivot means it's going to be difficult for one man to defend. Very little in the game would have changed had Reading played with ten men instead.

In the build-up to his own assist, Olise takes four Millwall players out of the game with a single pass. Only John Swift would have been able to replicate Olise in this passage of play.

The key lesson to take away has to be that Michael Olise does not belong on the bench. He showed what he offered at both ends of the field leading up to Joao's eleventh goal of the season. Early in the move bypassing four Millwall players with a ball to Rinomhota, before popping up just outside the box to play through Joao. It was the ball that made the goal - Joao's run was a reaction to it, rather than the other way around - and it deserved the finish.

Veljko was slightly cryptic about Olise's continued exclusion. He needs to see 'the bigger picture'. Whether that means that he's not following Paunovic's instructions, and costing the team in some way, or if he's thrown his toys out of the pram at some point, I don't think we'll ever know. What I do know is that Reading will continue to fail without him in the starting XI.

Jake Cooper consistently had free headers (tied with Jed Wallace for most shots in the game), but all too far out to trouble Rafael.

Millwall never really got an indirect free-kick routine right, thankfully for The Royals. Jake Cooper managed to find free headers seemingly every time but was normally too far out to really take advantage. The introduction of Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Matt Smith only added to their aerial ability, and a knockdown from the latter was somehow headed over from six yards by Ryan Leonard.

Millwall's readiness to target the channels from deep caused Reading's narrow defence some issues on both sides of the pitch.

And you have to question Gary Rowett leaving his big men on the bench initially when the home side were consistently finding space down the flanks. Perhaps he thought that a more agile forward could cause issues, and to be fair there's plenty of evidence to support that hypothesis. Reading's narrow defensive formation giving the opportunity for switches in play, and The Lions were really the first team to come close to exploiting it by keeping players high and wide.

Morrison looks to square up to the attacking player, even with help from Holmes and Laurent arriving, allowing Bodvarsson to run.

Bodvarsson had a shot excellently saved by Rafael - who had a solid game between the sticks. The forward seemed adept at capitalising on Morrison's tendency to want to stand up to direct runners,  twice spinning in behind into big pockets of space. Rinomhota was alert on the second occasion and averted the danger.

As many theorised, the change to five subs made no difference at all. Olise's half-time introduction was only followed by Baldock as the clock ticked over into second half stoppage time (a substitution that all parties probably regretted). Given that Meite looked shattered midway through the second half it's perhaps surprising that it wasn't made earlier.

In many ways, Reading got the luck that had been missing in the last few outings, but it will mean little without securing a result in Bristol.


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