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Match Reports

Match Report : 27/01/2015

27 January 2015

Full-time from The Den

Millwall's 10-men produced a spirited display to secure a valuable point - and first clean sheet of 2015 - with a gutsy performance against fellow strugglers Reading.

Following an awful run that had seen The Lions lose their previous five successive Championship fixtures at The Den, it looked as if the odds were heavily stacked in Reading's favour to make it six when Sid Nelson was sent off on the stroke of half-time for a challenge on Michael Hector. 

But if anyone had questioned the desire, commitment and passion of Millwall's players they got their answer by the bucket-load as Ian Holloway's new-look side dug in and fought gallantly to secure what could prove to be the point and performance that, quite literally, turns this season.

Whilst the rush of blood by young defender Nelson, 19, could have proved costly, credit where credit is due as Holloway's men turned in a much-improved display crowned by impressive debuts for Jos Hooiveld and Paris Cowan-Hall.

The Lions showed two changes to the team that faced Ipswich last time out, with latest signing Hooiveld taking his place alongside Nelson in the heart of the Millwall back four and Shaun Williams returning from a four-match ban to partner Jimmy Abdou in midfield. Byron Webster and Jack Powell were the two players to make way. 

Reading boss Steve Clarke also tinkered with his starting line-up, losing right-back Chris Gunter through injury with Stephen Kelly stepping in to fill the gap whilst Hal Robson-Kanu, on target against Cardiff City at the weekend, replaced Garath McCleary in the starting XI. 

Having conceded two goals in the opening quarter of an hour in their last home match, The Lions understandably wanted to make a steady, solid start and that is exactly what they did as they enjoyed long spells of possession against a Reading side that offered little as an attacking threat early on. 

The Lions carved out the first opening of the game when Diego Fabbrini - one of six players brought in by Holloway during January - curled a 20-yard free-kick straight into the hands of grateful Royals' keeper Adam Federici. 

Watford loanee Fabbrini caused Reading plenty of problems down the left and one jinking run into the area totally bamboozled the visiting defence as he weaved his way past four defenders. Unfortunately his crisp cross was plucked out of the air by Federici at full stretch with Gregory looking to apply the finish. 

The Lions continued to prise and probe in search of the opening goal and it nearly arrived seven minutes before the break when Stefan Maierhofer chested the ball into Lee Gregory's pass and the striker's shot flashed inches wide of the upright. 

Reading finally mustered a couple of half-chances of their own with Pavel Pogrebnyak calling keeper David Forde into action to save his strike from 10 yards whilst Hal Robson-Kanu lost his bearings completely with a header that flew off target following a deep cross from Kelly. 

However the momentum that Millwall had built up with a promising first-half performance looked to have been lost when Nelson was shown a straight red card for a late tackle on Hector leaving his team-mates to play out the second-half a man short. 

Alan Dunne and Cowan-Hall came on for Magaye Gueye and Maierhofer - the former taking the captain's armband from Forde and the latter making his first appearance in a Lions shirt.  

And the duo epitomised everything that was good about this team performance as The Lions prevented Reading from capitalising on their man-advantage during 45 minutes plus three minutes of injury-time. 

Forde twice did well to parry efforts from Jordan Obita and Daniel Williams, but it was the home team who created the clearer of the scoring opportunities after the break. 

Gregory sent a header from Fabbrini's inviting cross a whisker wide just before the hour-mark and then Hooiveld was denied a debut goal when his bullet header from Williams' deep inch-perfect free-kick was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Federici. 

Cowan-Hall tried his luck from distance after picking up a huge clearance from Forde that was flicked into his path by Gregory. The keeper flung himself low to his left to superbly push Simon Cox's 86th-minute drive round the post for a corner to deny the Reading sub at the other end. 

The Lions dug in one last time and despite facing a couple of late corners, the organisational qualities of Hooiveld and Dunne ensured that this was a defence not going to be breached as Millwall held firm for a well-deserved point. 

Millwall: Forde, Cummings, Harding, Nelson, Hooiveld, Williams, Abdou, Gueye (Dunne, 46mins), Gregory, Maierhofer (Cowan-Hall, 46mins), Fabbrini (Martin, 77mins). Subs not used: King, Beevers, Upson, Fuller. 
Sending off: Nelson (45mins) 

Reading: Federici, Kelly, Obita, Pearce, Hector, Norwood, Williams, Chalobah (McCleary, 58mins), Robson-Kanu (Mackie, 76mins), Blackman (Cox, 58mins), Pogrebnyak. Subs not used: Andersen, Travner, Cooper, Karacan. 
Booking: Mackie (84mins) 

Ref: A Madley 
Att: 8,317 (away 539)

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