The Royals were stung by two goals within the space of three second half minutes as Millwall came away with three points from a scrappy affair at Madejski Stadium.
- Loanee Tommy Elphick hobbles off half an hour into his home debut
- Morison header somehow scambled off the line at the end of the first half
- Romeo shot deflects off Bacuna and beats a helpless Mannone for 1-0
- Three minutes later a defensive mix-up allows Gregory to angle in a second.
After a midweek appearance from the bench in Burton, Tommy Elphick was drafted into the starting eleven as Jaap Stam handed the loanee his full Royals debut, while deadline day acquisition Chris Martin was named on the bench.
With the game just 5 minutes old, a pass from Tiago Ilori was intercepted by Steve Morison who threaded a pass into the path of Lee Gregory – but a superb sliding tackle from Elphick denied the Millwall no.9 a shooting opportunity.
At the other end, Bodvarsson’s neat turn on the right flank was brought to a halt by Onyedinma who barged him over to make sure of a goal kick. And Kermorgant’s canny flick nearly released Barrow in behind the Millwall back line only to be stopped by the offside flag.
Moments later, Bodvarsson charged down a clearance from goalkeeper Jordan Archer, but the ball spiralled to safety when it could just have easily flown goalwards. But it took a near post stop from Mannone to deny the visitors an opening goal as he spilled Wallace’s low ball and leapt at the feet of Onyedinma to push his follow-up over the bar.
The offside flag came to the Royals’ rescue with 18 minutes gone; a floated inswinging free kick was nodded down and Jake Cooper’s oustretched leg turned the ball home – but the Lions fans’ celebrations were cut short by a raised flag on the far side.
Reading have been beleaguered by injury troubles all season and home debutant Tommy Elphick was forced off half an hour, replaced by Tyler Blackett at the back. And Millwall nearly took immediate advantage of that change at the back, exchanging a sequence of passes down the right to allow McLaughlin a shot that cannoned into the body of Bacuna and Reading could scrap it clear.
Moments later, Reading opened up some space in behind the Lions defence, Barrow’s pace too much for the visitors to deal with as he skipped past two men and wrestled his way into the box. His dinked cross floated over both Kermorgant and Bodvarsson though to Millwall’s relief.
But the closest we came to an opening goal was in the closing moments of the first half. A floated Williams free kick was met by Morison peeling away at the back post and his looping header sailed over the arm of Mannone only for a combination of the crossbar and a bundle of bodies to somehow scramble the ball off the line and behind for a goal kick.
Mannone gobbled up a Wallace shot at goal from the edge of the box as Millwall finished the half strongly – an Onyedinma effort skipped up off the toe of Ilori and fizzed just wide for a corner in injury time. And yet there was still time for Barrow to burst past McLaughlin down the right and fizz a cross dangerously across the Millwall area.
Half time | Reading 0-0 Millwall
Barrow brilliance earned Reading an opening at the start of the secon period, ghosting past three of four Millwall men to lift a cross into the box which Kermorgant competed for, but the ball fell to a Millwall foot who hacked it clear.
Blackett was robbed of the ball at the back, but Gregory couldn't pick out Morison in the middle with his cut back. And although Morison had a speculative effort at goal from 25 yards soon after, it was easy for Mannone to catch.
Barrow was at his best, cutting in between two Millwall men to whip a low cross into the area where Edwards launched himself at the ball was unable to get a stud to it to direct it goalwards.
McLaughlin was unable to deal with Barrow's direct pacy runs so was replaced by Romeo after another darting burst from the winger had seen him pull the ball back for Bodvarsson, who hooked a left boot around it but could only arrow it wide.
Bodvarsson raced onto a ball down the right but his low cross was collected by Archer with ease. And loanee Chris Martin was introduced with 23 minutes of the match remaining as the Royals looked to find a way through a solid Millwall back line.
But instead, luck was against the Royals once more and the visitors took the lead via a horrible deflection. Romeo looked to angle a low cross into the box from the corner of the area but it span off the ankle of Bacuna and skidded past a helpless Mannone and inside the near post.
And defensive errors allowed the Lions a second moments later. Blackett was caught in possession by Morison who burst down the right and crossed low into the middle. Ilori and Mannone got in each other's way and the ball fell to the feet of Gregory who was able to angle it into the open net for 2-0.
Martin drew a foul on the D of the Millwall box with 12 minutes of the match left to play, but Bacuna's set piece sailed over the crossbar. Then Bodvarsson came close when a Barrow break down the right was squared to the Icelander, whose shot on the turn was deflected wide by a Millwall defender.
Time was running out for the Royals and Martin teed up Van den Berg who swept a shot over the crossbar from the edge of the box. And in injury time Archer had to leap low to his left to save an Edwards header that was directed towards the bottom corner from Bacuna's cross. But this was not to be Reading's afternoon.
Full time | Reading 0-2 Millwall
Reading: Mannone, Elphick (Blackett 31 (McCleary 80)), Gunter (c), Moore, Ilori, Van den Berg, Edwards, Bacuna, Barrow, Böðvarsson, Kermorgant (Martin 68).
Subs: Jaakkola, Evans, Clement, Aluko.
Yellow: Ilori, Edwards, Bacuna
Millwall: Archer, McLaughlin (Romeo 61), Meredith, Cooper, Hutchinson, Williams, Gregory (Shackell 87), Onyedinma, Wallace (Ferguson 75), Saville, Morison (c).
Subs: Martin, Tunnicliffe, Elliott, Marshall.
Goals: Romeo 70, Gregory 73
Yellow: McLaughlin, Wallace, Cooper
Referee: Mr G Eltringham
Att: 17,282 (2,661 away)