Millwall 0 Reading 2: Sidwell's class masks the Reading flaws

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The Independent Online

The respective managers, Steve Coppell and Colin Lee, both need to be busy in the January sales, but are unlikely to bump into each other in the same shops. Lee's Millwall need a footballing miracle to attract the necessary quality to stay up - three points adrift at the foot of the Championship table with a threadbare squad.

At least they have a vibrant new chairman in Peter de Savary who is willing to put his money where his mouth is. "You could put Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho in charge together here and it wouldn't make a difference because we need four or five new players," Lee said.

Reading, meanwhile, are too good for this division but look way off the Premiership pace. Coppell insists he only knows where his side are in the table because people keep telling him and he appeared uninterested that this eighth consecutive win, a 23rd League game without defeat, leaves them six points clear of second-placed Sheffield United and 20 ahead of third place.

He admitted that they made hard work of a struggling Millwall side, who played with 10 men from two minutes into the second half. "People are judging us on more than our results now and I expect we will be damned with faint praise after that," Coppell said.

Quite right. They will struggle in the Premiership next season if they play like this. Harsh? Only time will tell. Reading look great on paper, but Millwall were the better team in the first half and Reading's recent three-goal League Cup defeat by an Arsenal reserve side is probably a truer reflection of their strength.

Lee, a former assistant manager at Reading, added: "I think Reading will go up and I hope they do, but Steve knows he will have to spend well to keep them up there. They are not fantastic to watch but they are effective."

The form and stats indicated that these teams were a world apart going into the match, but Millwall hit the bar through Alan Dunne before Reading took a 40th-minute lead through midfielder Steve Sidwell's cracking 12-yard volley.

Game over? Probably. Reading had found their stride and bite while it was hard to see where Millwall might score. They are not bottom for nothing, having won only once at home all season, scoring just five times. Reading, meanwhile, had hit 20 goals in winning their previous seven matches, conceding only three.

And it was incredible that Millwall held out for so long in the second half. Reading's first chance came when Millwall's Tony Craig conceded a penalty and was sent off for a trip on Doyle in the 47th minute. But Dave Kitson's penalty was well saved by on-loan Birmingham keeper Colin Doyle.

Reading had further chances before scoring an inevitable second through Kevin Doyle - a clipped left-foot shot from Nicky Shorey's pass - with 22 minutes to go.

Now the Reading fans could start their Christmas celebrations in earnest, predicting the fates of both clubs by singing "You'll never play us again". A bold statement, even though Millwall look relegation certainties, for Reading are unlikely to last long in the top flight next season, despite being too good for this division.

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