Saturday, December 17, 2005

X-FACTOR Millwall 0-2 Reading

As the chasing pack in the Championship continue to waver and wobble like a bunch of 6th form girls out on a college Christmas do, the Reading FC: Premiership Project bandwagon rolled into South East London yesterday afternoon, parked up for an hour or two to do the dirty work and then stormed out of the metaphorical garage like some sort of A-Team tribute band with a newly established 6 point lead over their nearest rivals and an astonishing 20 point lead over 3rd place.

Bottom vs Top this was, but for the most part during the first half it looked like two ordinary Championship teams having a go at each other - end-to-end and lacking in quality. Millwall were like a wounded lion playing for pride; abrasive and feisty, they poured forward wth power if not pace and showed plenty of spirit. The outcome could have been so very different if Dunne hadn't thundered a header against the crossbar with Hahnemann well beaten midway through the first half, the first real effort of note. That slice of luck always seem to land on the plate of a team flying high and playing with confidence and buoyed by that let off Reading took a barely deserved lead into the break with the one piece of quality play in the half.

A move full of intent was engineered down the right flank; Murty's ball was laid of by Kitson to Doyle on the edge of the area. The Irishman had a crowd of bodies around him and so cleverly picked out SIDWELL 12 yards out with a lofted pass. The ginger ninja let rip on the volley and the ball flew into the top corner, the kind of goal you score when you've won each of your last 7 league games and the travelling army of supporters chanted quite appropriately "that's why we're top the league". With a scarcely deserved advantage at the break, Millwall must have wondered what hit them two minutes into the second half of a game in which they had been more than competitive. Little's through ball sent Doyle scampering clear of the leaden-footed home defence. Advancing into the box, the Leprechaun's legs were removed from under him by a clumsily desperate challenge from Millwall's Craig. Red card for Craig, Doyle left in a crumpled heap like discarded christmas wrapping paper and a chance for Kitson who had a 100% success rate from the spot for Reading.

The penalty was unconvincing and was struck down the middle and saved by the legs of the Millwall keeper. As Kitson rushed in to tuck away the rebound he appeared to slip and the ball fell for Sidwell who sliced wide. This let off lifted the home crowd and provided the spark for 25 minutes of thrilling football which followed. With a man advantage, Reading's wingers cut their desperate opponents to shreds - Little released Convey who drove a clear chance agonisingly wide. Little himself was put clear on the right hand side, made inroads towards goal and finished delightfully with a chip.....which astonishingly bounced the wrong side of the far post. Two incredible let offs for Millwall, whose keeper also denied Sidwell with an outstanding stop after a twenty yard low driven fizzer of a shot. At the other end Millwall had chances which belied their one man disadvantage, almost levelling seconds after the penalty save when Hahnemann saved from Bruce's effort which certainly was not Dyer, May's low driven freekick was skillfully gathered by Hahnemann with Millwall players ready to pounce and Whitbread nodded over onto the top of the net.

Floyd on Football had remained positive and confident thus far throughout the game but now nerves were starting to be frayed. With Sheffield United dropping points the previous evening it was crucial for us not to slip up ourselves the following day and despite tearing into Millwall's ten men seemingly at will, the home side were refusing to lie down and die and had caused nervous moments at the other end. With twenty minutes left, for the umpteenth time in the second half Reading attacked down the flank with menace. This time it was Shorey who dribbled towards the edge of the box, fed Doyle who was at an angle with Little waiting at the far post. Ignoring his team mate who would have been left with a tap in, DOYLE went alone and clipped the ball into the far corner with panache. The goal was celebrated raucously by the visiting support behind that goal, those nerves and doubts were now put to bed and the closing stages were played out with Reading seeking a third which they'd have deserved in terms of chances created - Little and Kitson going close and Millwall's Dunne almost scoring a comedy own goal in front of the jubilant Reading supporters who were singing their satisfaction at another successful away day.

The journey home was just as happy and boisterous - Reading fans kept behind in the walkway to South Bermondsey station for 15 minutes or so after the game were more than happy to wait in the circumstances, particularly as it gave ample opportunity to serenade the raging Millwall supporters filing past for their trains to the strains of "6 points clear my lord", "Top o'the league, we're having a laugh" and of course "Feed the Millwall, let them know it's Christmas time". Millwall fans may not enjoy the festive season as much as Reading supporters undoubtedly will.

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Ingimarsson, Sonko, Little (Oster, 82), Sidwell (Gunnarsson, 79), Harper, Convey, Doyle (Hunt, 87), Kitson. Subs not used: Stack, Brown.

Floyd's Favourite: Doyle. Could it be magic?


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