MILLWALL scored twice in three second-half minutes to complete a league double over Reading and win their second Championship game in a row away from home.
Leandro Bacuna deflected Mahlon Romeo’s shot into his own goal in the 70th minute and Lee Gregory’s finish from a tight angle put the Lions in control.
It was a dominant Millwall performance as they stretched their unbeaten run to six games and left Reading deep in relegation trouble.
It should have been worse for Reading. Millwall created the clear-cut chances in the first half but had a goal ruled out for offside and regularly caused panic in Reading’s defence.
The two moments of danger for Millwall came early on when a heavy touch from Jordan Archer allowed Jon Dadi Bodvarsson to block down the attempted clearance, but the ball spun away to safety.
In first-half added-time Mo Barrow flashed in a low cross but there was no Reading player there to apply a finish.
In between those efforts Millwall would have wondered how they didn’t take a lead into the half-time break.
In the 15th minute, Vito Mannone dropped Jed Wallace’s cross to Fred Onyedinma but got down to block the follow-up for a corner.
Jake Cooper then headed across goal and Gregory had the ball in the back of the net but it didn’t stand.
The Lions fashioned the best move before the break when Onyedinma found Conor McLaughlin joining the attack down the right. McLaughlin passed to Wallace who back-heeled a lovely return but Mannone palmed away the full-back’s thumping shot.
Just before half-time Reading somehow escaped after a scramble inside their six-yard box, prompted by Steve Morison’s header across goal to the back post where Cooper and Shaun Hutchinson somehow couldn’t find the back of the net.
The Royals were under real pressure and after Onyedinma’s shot was blocked, Wallace tried to curl past Mannone but couldn’t beat the goalkeeper.
In the second half Archer produced a superb save to deny Barrow before Morison almost closed down Mannone as Milwall pressed high up the pitch.
Romeo then came off the bench to make the difference, and Gregory’s goal was no more than Millwall deserved.
Morison back for Millwall
Neil Harris made two changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Derby last Tuesday. Morison had recovered from illness and partnered Gregory up front.
Onyedinma replaced Shane Ferguson on the left of midfield, while January signings Jason Shackell and Ben Marshall were on the bench.
Onyedinma was putting in one of those performances that showed why Millwall worked so hard to convince him to stay last summer, but also made you wonder why he doesn’t do it more often.
His display also contrasted with the home side’s. Onyedinma was quick and attacked space in front of him whenever he had the chance. Reading were sluggish in possession and it was only when Barrow broke clear late in the first half and then threatened an opener early in the second period were the Lions worried.
Onyedinma was aggressive winning the ball, and was a constant useful outlet for his side. Given Marshall will offer competition on the left wing, and Aiden O'Brien returns next month, Onyedinma can’t afford to drop his levels.
Romeo on to help defence – but creates breakthrough
After the break Reading were managing to isolate Barrow and he was causing some problems for the visitors.
In the 58th minute he skipped through a gap between McLaughlin and Wallace and fired a shot across goal that Archer tipped away for a corner.
Moments later he was again sprinting into the box but couldn’t find a team-mate. Realising he needed to change something Harris brought McLaughlin off, with Romeo on to play right-back and try to stop Barrow, who was up until then Reading’s only real attacking threat.
Romeo was sticking close to Barrow but in the 70th minute found the right moment to offer Wallace a passing option. Romeo’s shot might have been going across goal, but the ball struck Bacuna’s foot and snuck in at the near post.
Soon, Morison was clear down the right and judged a perfect short pass to Gregory, who rounded Mannone and finished with his right foot with the angle narrowing quickly.
It was a miserable afternoon for Royals boss Jaap Stam, and for Tyler Blackett, the defender taken off in the 80th minute having come on for injured debutant Tommy Elphick in the first half. And Archer's late save from Bacuna denied the hosts any consolation.
Cup replay spurs Lions
Millwall go to Rochdale on Tuesday night with the reward for both teams a likely home meeting with Spurs in the last 16 of the FA Cup.
The Spotland pitch is not in the best of states, and while that could figure in Harris’ thinking behind his team selection as he seeks to protect his front-line players, it may also play into the away side’s hands given how well Dale moved the ball around at The Den.
Only one of Harris’ January signings – Jason Shackell – is eligible to play, as the registrations of Harry Toffolo, Tim Cahilll and Marshall were only completed after the first game.
The Lions meet Cardiff the following Friday when Cahill could come into contention to feature. If that isn’t mouth-watering enough for Lions fans, the prospect of Tottenham could really make it an exciting couple of weeks.
Image: Millwall FC