PREVIEW: Reading vs. Millwall

GARY Rowett's next challenge is to try to crack the side’s away form and lead the Lions to a first league win on their travels this season.

Millwall’s last Championship victory on the road was at Birmingham on March 13, when Ben Thompson’s double ended a four-game losing run and give a crucial boost to efforts to beat the drop.

The record since then away from The Den – where they have lost just once this season – is six defeats and five draws in 11 games.

On the evidence of last Saturday, Rowett will want more attacking impetus from his full-backs. It was noticeable that Rowett encouraged Mahlon Romeo – who was making his 150th appearance in all competitions for the club – to push up the pitch whenever there was space in front of him.

Rowett isn’t getting carried away by last Saturday’s win, the first by two goals this season, and wants to build on kit this weekend.

“It was really positive, but we’re mindful it was the first game and a lot of things can happen in the first game,” Rowett said. “There’s that newness and enthusiasm and the challenge is going to be to maintain that.

“I was really pleased with the fact that the players took on a lot of our ideas in a short space of time and executed them with quality to match the enthusiasm and endeavour that we know the team has.

“Whether your performance is an attacking one or a defensive one, and it usually has a bit of everything in there, you have to have that solid base. I know the team this season hasn’t kept as many clean sheets as they would like.

“I think at the weekend it was down to the composure the players showed in the last ten or fifteen minutes when against a side like Stoke you can come under a lot of pressure. But I felt we kept our shape, we still pressed when we needed to press. That’s important that we don’t just drop in and hang on, which I know is difficult not to do sometimes.

“We showed composure on transitions. We need to build on the performance and see if we can improve.”

Rowett should have no new injury problems against Reading, with only Ryan Leonard and Frank Fielding in the treatment room.

Meanwhile, Reading’s fixture at Nottingham Forest last Saturday was postponed after heavy rainfall in the Midlands.

The Royals have taken four points from two games since Mark Bowen, who had been the sporting director, replaced the sacked Jose Gomes.

Despite those positive results, Reading are 21st in the table, above Middlesbrough on goal difference, but with that game in hand on their rivals.

“This is the brutality of this league; no hiding place and no rest-up,” Bowen said. “You have to wipe yourselves down and go again, and I know these guys will do.

“The main thing since I’ve stepped into this role is that every one of the players wants to improve and every one of them wants to do well for the club.

“They all want to get further up the table, and to fight for each other. What a fantastic situation for me to inherit a group like that.

“It is a hard, long season. You have to grind out games and keep putting points on the board.”

Possible Millwall starting XI: 4-4-1-1: Bialkowski; Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, M Wallace; J Wallace, Williams, Molumby, Ferguson; Thompson; Bradshaw.

Match odds: Reading 11/10 Draw 23/10 Millwall 12/5

Last season’s meeting: Reading 3-1 Millwall (Méïté 28, 86, Baldock 45 (pen); Wallace 34).

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly