"They've got cars big as bars,
They've got rivers of gold.
But the wind goes right through you,
It's no place for the old."
The Boxing Day game is always a special one in the football calendar. After checking the fixture list for when a team will be playing their local and bitter rivals, all eyes magnetise straight toward the game on the 26th December. It would be Reading at home this year, but unfortunately for the Lions this wasn’t a memorable Christmas classic like Fairy tale in New York, but more like the Last Christmas cover by the Crazy Frog.
The game started well for the Lions and Ryan Leonard in particular was running around like a reindeer who had been cut loose of his reins, charging down the ball and piling the pressure on the Reading back-line and goalkeeper in the opening two minutes.
Not to be outdone in the opening moments of the game by his midfield team mate, Tom Elliott lost his man well in the 6th minute and was stood alone in the six-yard-box, but his close-range effort was blocked by Jaakkola when it seemed easier to score.
It was in the 8th minute when the Lions found the back of the net with an absolute Christmas cracker from Jed Wallace. Standing over a free-kick on the right-hand side with Shane Ferguson, the winger struck a near post effort well which nestled neatly into Jaakkola’s near post and put Millwall 1-0 up in front of the travelling Berkshire fans.
Only a minute later, the Royals were shown a red card when Tyler Blackett was adjudged to have committed a reckless and dangerous lunge. The Biscuitmen were down to ten men and the home fans were hoping they would start to crumble.
The game had a high tempo for the opening twenty minutes, but not any moments of real quality in front of goal. The next real effort came in the 22nd minute and it was the visitors who had an effort from distance, but the ball was collected quicker and easier than an over enthusiastic child who walked into a front room full of presents by Jordan Archer.
Apart from a corner in the 41st minute from Shane Ferguson that was headed over the bar, there were no cutting-edge efforts from neither side and the Lions went in at half-time 1-0 up.
The opening five minutes of the second half saw Reading up the tempo and start to get a foothold in the game, but it was the home side who came close again in the 51st minute when Ryan Leonard had a long-range effort from just outside the 18-yard box. The midfielder’s effort was good and had Jaakkola beat, but unfortunately so was the far post.
The Royals continued to get into the game and although they were a man light, they were playing with more space and confidence than the home side. After a number of half chances from the visitors, an outstanding 30-yard free-kick in the 72nd minute had Jordan Archer beat, but luckily the crossbar provided a Christmas miracle for the Lions and kept the ball out.
There continued to be very little action in front of goal for the remainder of the half and the game, but that didn’t mean that was the last of the controversy. With only three minutes of normal time to go, Reading were given another festive card, but unfortunately it was a card they did not want to receive. After a number of tackles flew in, Bacuna showed that he was not full of Christmas spirit an was sent off for stamping on Shane Ferguson.
Five additional minutes were added, but the Lions held on against nine men for the much needed three points. Rockin’ all Over the World played over the tannoy and sounded sweeter than any angel proclaiming the good news of good tidings. Millwall finished Boxing Day on 22 points and just outside the relegation zone. Let’s just hope our chosen Messiah can pull off another miracle and keep us in the Championship at the end of the season.
Millwall: Archer, Meredith, Hutchinson, Cooper, J. Wallace (O'Brien 76'), Gregory, Ferguson (Skalak 89'), Romeo, Tunnicliffe, Elliott (Morison 57'), Leonard.
Subs not used: Amos, Karacan, M. Wallace, Brown.
Reading: Jaakkola, Yiadom, Moore, Bacuna, Swift (Osho 82'), Barrow, Meite (McCleary 73'), Blackett, Richards, Rinomhota, Loader (Baldock 63').
Subs not used: Mannone, O'Shea, Meyler, Aluko.