MILLWALL’S relegation fears increased after they were well beaten at home by Reading this afternoon.
An awful mistake by Lions keeper Stephen Bywater gifted Pavel Pogrebnyak the Royals’ opener six minutes before the break.
And two goals in the space of four second half minutes from Alex Pearce and Daniel Williams ensured Ian Holloway suffered his first Den defeat since succeeding Steve Lomas, a result which left Millwall looking anxiously over their shoulders just above the dreaded drop zone.
The Lions boss made five changes from the side which kicked-off the 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday here on Tuesday evening.
Having come off the bench to score the equaliser on his debut against the Owls, DJ Campbell started and partnered Steve Morison up front.
Andy Keogh and Liam Trotter both left the club yesterday so there was also a start for Josh Wright, his first since the opening day 1-0 defeat to Yeovil.
Shane Lowry began his suspension having been red carded midweek so Mark Beevers came in to partner Danny Shittu in central defence.
In came Liam Feeney and recent capture from MK Dons Shaun Williams as Lee Martin dropped to the bench and Nicky Bailey missed out on the squad altogether.
The Lions had an early chance when Royals keeper Alex McCarthy did well to push behind Campbell’s powerfully struck third minute shot for a corner.
Jobi McAnuff saw an attempt go just across the face of goal and Daniel Williams had a long range drive easily gathered by Bywater.
Campbell was unlucky his first touch let him down after Martyn Woolford had headed the ball into his path and Morison saw a volley from the edge of the area fly just over as the action swung back to the other end.
Pavel Pogrebnyak had a penalty claim ignored after going to ground under a challenge from Beevers and Bywater had to tip behind Jordan Obita’s 25-yard free-kick behind minutes later.
Gareth McCleary did well to jink past two Millwall defenders before playing a pass through to Adam Le Fondre but the Reading striker’s effort went well off target.
Reading were forced into a change 12 minutes before the break when the injured Hope Akpan was replaced by Jake Taylor.
Martyn Woolford’s surging run forward ended with a 20-yard shot that went just over the bar but it was Reading who took the lead in bizarre circumstances six minutes before the break.
A long Chris Gunter ball was played into the box which Bywater inexplicably dropped, allowing Pogrebnyak to take full advantage by firing home.
They could easily have doubled their advantage in first half stoppage time as Le Fondre got in in front of Shittu after a cross was whipped in from the left but he somehow couldn’t get on the end of it to apply a touch and Millwall survived.
Morison’s excellent through ball sent Feeney through on goal six minutes after the restart but his angled drive was saved by McCarthy.
Holloway made a double change in the 58th minute by taking off Feeney and Wright for Martin and Jermaine Easter.
Pogrebnyak was perhaps fortunate to escape with only a yellow card after going in late on Beevers, who was taken off shortly afterwards for striker John Marquis as Holloway went all out in search of an equaliser.
However, it was Reading who made it 2-0 on 72 minutes after Bywater did well to push out Pogrebnyak’s header, only for Pearce to react quickest to the rebound by shooting into the net.
And the outcome was put beyond all doubt four minutes later when Daniel Williams saw his initial attempt blocked but made no mistake second time around with a low shot beating Bywater.
The Millwall keeper had to get down low to deny McAnuff’s angled 81st minute shot as the Royals looked to pile on the misery for the home fans.
McCarthy had to tip over Marquis’ looping header at the other end and then Pearce got in a block to prevent Easter having a shot at goal.
There was to be no consolation, though, and Reading comfortably ran down the clock to leave the Lions in serious trouble at the foot of the table, just two points ahead of neighbours Charlton in the final relegation place.
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Millwall: Bywater, Fredericks, Shittu, Beevers (Marquis 70), Malone, Woolford, Wright (Easter 58), Williams, Feeney (Martin 58), Morison, Campbell. Subs not used: Gerrar, Dunne, Robinson, Abdou. Att: 11,174.