Full-time score and report
A late brace of goals from Reading substitute Bianca Bragg condemned Millwall to defeat on Wednesday night - but The Lionesses could take plenty of positives from the performance in their first outing since the departure of manager Alberto Kurti.
went into the game as leading goalscorers in WSL 2, and with the threat of England international Fran Kirby spearheading their attack, it was always going to be a tough test for the home team.
However The Lionesses rose to the challenge, making the game a far more even contest than the final scoreline would suggest. Indeed, they could well have taken the lead in the eighth minute as Cherrelle Albert got behind the visiting defence to send a teasing centre across the face of goal, which sadly evaded her strike partners.
Three minutes later Reading opened the scoring from the penalty spot after Lillie Billson brought down Lauren Bruton in the box. Bruton picked herself up and took responsibility for the spot-kick, tucking her finish beyond the dive of Sarah Quantrill and into the keeper's bottom left corner.
Fran Kirby fired an angled drive wide of the mark soon after, and Melissa Fletcher was denied by Quantrill, before Billson came close to claiming an equaliser for the hosts with a powerful strike across the face of goal on 24 minutes.
On the half hour, Kirby should have done better when put clean through on the left, but the forward curled her effort over the crossbar. Moments later, Harriet Scott set up Bruton to stab goalwards, but once again keeper Quantrill coped comfortably with her finish.
Then, following a good spell for the hosts in the closing stages of the half, Billson tried her luck with a shot on the turn from the edge of the area that fell just the wrong side of the bar and landed on the roof of the net.
Millwall were forced to make a change at the break, having lost Stevie Lamb to injury in first-half stoppage time. However, the combination of a half-time team talk, and the arrival of 16-year-old debutant Paige Anderson-James saw the home side take the momentum from the restart.
Royals' keeper Grace Moloney kept her side in the match on 47 minutes with a great save after Lilly Agg had been brought down on the edge of the area. Albert touched the set-piece into the path of Agg who was unlucky to see her low drive pushed round the post by the Reading custodian.
From the resulting corner, Albert found skipper Naomi Cole with a deep ball to the far post, only for the defender's header to fizz over the bar. Then, Anderson-James showed great strength to shrug off a defender and set up Billson, who lifted her finish over the keeper and onto the roof of the net.
Throughout the opening stages of the second-half the home side looked the likelier to score and it seemed they would finally be rewarded on 71 minutes. Anderson-James connected perfectly with Albert's ball in from the right, only to see her effort cannon back off the underside of the crossbar.
Paige saw another effort denied by Moloney, low to her right-hand upright, but just as it seemed that Millwall must score, Reading grabbed a shock lead. A ball into the area found Bianca Bragg on the left of goal and Quantrill couldn't keep her powerful finish from creeping inside the far post.
The Lionesses continued to look dangerous though, and earned a route back into the game two minutes later, after Anderson-James had been brought down on the left edge of the area. Albert stepped up and fired a stunning effort past the keeper and into the far corner.
Hopes of a comeback were short-lived though, as Bragg restored the visitors' two-goal advantage soon after and, with the home side tiring, Kirby completed the scoring on 88 minutes, though the result hardly reflected the competitive nature of the contest.
Millwall: Quantrill, Cole, Davies, Fisk, Strugnell, Sherwood, Maple (Mackie, 81mins), Lamb (Anderson-James, 46mins), Billson, Agg, Albert.
Subs not used: Burr, Gibbs, Stenning