GARY Rowett felt a "passive" first-half performance when Millwall conceded two goals to Reading gave his side two much to do despite a spirited response at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
Jordan Obita and Sam Baldock put the hosts in control at the break, before Jed Wallace's 63rd-minute goal gave the Lions hope.
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson almost levelled with a spectacular 89th-minute bicycle kick, but Millwall couldn't force a late equaliser despite bombarding the Royals' box.
"I felt the response second half to pin Reading in and put them under pressure for probably most of the second half and create most of the opportunities, maybe we deserved an equaliser," Rowett said.
"But on the balance of the first half, as pleasing as the reaction was in the second half, I was probably equally as disappointed with the first half.
"We were passive, stood off a little bit and allowed the likes of [Ovie] Ejaria and [John] Swift to dictate the game. They're good players and if you give them time they will, if you're too respectful of them they will.
"First half we were second best all over the park, really. They were two disappointing goals to give away – they were both fantastic finishes. But the first one was a set-piece that we don't get out quickly enough to and the second one is our set-up from a goal-kick, we don't close the gaps quickly enough. The player is coming back from offside in the second phase and drifts in between the centre-half and full-back and we don't tuck in.
"We had some moments first half when we passed the ball but we just over-played at times. We didn't play forward with enough aggression and enough quality.
"Our reaction second half was very, very good. I just would have liked us to play with that mentality from the very start."
Rowett brought on Bodvarsson for Shane Ferguson at half-time and the striker almost levelled against his former club.
Another substitute, Matt Smith, saw a header saved by Rafael Cabral and Jake Cooper nodded over in injury-time as Millwall's run without an away league win this season continued.
Rowett added: I felt at times that we needed to force the issue a little bit more. You're hoping that you can make those changes from a better position rather than being 2-0 down.
"We needed to get more balls in the box, we needed more of a physical presence up there. I wanted to give Jon Dadi the chance to do that first before Smudge then came on.
"We went 4-3-3 and pushed Thommo [Ben Thompson] and Jayson Molumby in more advanced positions and they gave us a bit more intensity, we started winning some second balls and playing on the front foot.
"There was more link play with the strikers, we were much better. Then in the end we ended up with Connor Mahoney and three strikers on the pitch. We tried to do what we could to get back into the game, but the two goals and a poor first-half performance gave us too much to do."
Image: Millwall FC