Throughout the second half of the 2018/19 season, millwallfc.co.uk will be analysing our opponents by taking a look back at their campaign so far. As The Lions prepare for their Boxing Day clash at The Den with Reading, here is a review of their results until Christmas…
Reading began 2018/19 under former Derby County and Swansea City manager Paul Clement, who arrived at the Madejski Stadium back in March. The club recruited a blend of youth and experience, bringing in players such as Josh Sims, Sam Baldock and Andy Yiadom, as well as former Premier League regulars John O’Shea and David Meyler. The Royals cleared a number of players off the bill, releasing veteran striker Yann Kermorgant and midfield man Stephen Quinn – both popular players in Berkshire – with George Evans sold to Derby and numerous youngsters gaining experience elsewhere on loan deals. Pre-season looked shaky for Clement’s side, with no games won across their schedule of friendlies, although the team did secure draws with European outfits Besiktas and Rubin Kazan whilst on tour in Austria. This form continued into the Sky Bet Championship, gaining their first point in their fourth match against Blackburn after defeats to Derby, Nottingham Forest and Bolton Wanderers. A respectable draw at Aston Villa followed, with Reading ending August with two points but already three goals for Iceland striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. The Royals were eliminated from the Carabao Cup at the Second Round stage, knocking out Birmingham City but stopped by Premier League Watford.
After opening September with a narrow home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, Reading secured their first victory of the season with a hard-fought 3-2 triumph at Deepdale against Preston North End. Norwich City were the next visitors to the Madejski, claiming a 2-1 win, with The Royals yet to pick up a home point. The fortunes of Clement’s side and the Reading fans changed in some style three days later, however, as the team marched to a 3-0 win on home turf over Hull City despite finishing the game with 10 men. The Royals rounded off September with what appeared a good point at Brentford following a 2-2 scoreline, but were moments away from taking all three points but for The Bees’ stoppage-time equaliser. The four points from a possible six lifted Reading out of the relegation places going into October, with Gianluca Nani arriving as sporting director at the club.
Two home matches – including against Neil Harris’ Millwall – and three away travels were on the agenda for Clement in October, with the team starting the month with a slender loss as they hosted in-form QPR. A trip to free-scoring West Bromwich Albion followed, with Reading going in at the interval a Leandro Bacuna goal to the good. Darren Moore’s Baggies however came out firing in the second half, going on to dispatch The Royals by a 4-1 margin. After the international break, it was unfortunate for The Lions that Reading would take the Madejski meeting between the sides to take their chances, securing a 3-1 win over Harris’ men despite a host of chances for the visitors to take the three points. Yakou Meite grabbed two goals in the encounter alongside a Baldock penalty, cancelling out Murray Wallace’s first-half strike. The remainder of the month brought the return of top scorer Bodvarsson after a spell on the sidelines, but Reading were still unable to show for their efforts in back-to-back away defeats at Birmingham and Swansea and entered November third from bottom.
In a month with more off-field activity at the Madejski as CEO Ron Gourlay departed the club, Reading went unbeaten for three of their four November League matches. A determined 3-2 win over Bristol City at the Madejski came before a draw with basement side Ipswich Town, leaving Clement’s side 20th in the Championship and opening up a gap to the relegation places. An away point and clean sheet at Wigan Athletic maintained that, before missing a late penalty at Elland Road the following week as Leeds United staggered to a 1-0 win against The Royals. Reading still ended November two places above the drop zone, claiming five points from four games as they looked to build a degree of momentum.
Reading entered the draw for the Emirates FA Cup Third Round alongside Premier League and fellow Championship clubs, and were drawn to travel to Manchester United in what will be their 14th FA Cup meeting, and third tie at Old Trafford in five years. The club parted company with Clement in early December, and sporting director Nani also left The Royals the following day after less than three months in the role. On the pitch, Reading secured a 2-2 draw with an improving Stoke City side at the Madejski, earning a point through Modou Barrow’s last-gasp leveller. A 2-0 home defeat to top-six hopefuls Sheffield United followed as U23 coach Scott Marshall took temporary charge, before securing another away point at Rotherham United. The Royals were beaten 1-0 at home by Middlesbrough on Saturday.