It was another home victory for the Blades and six on the bounce at the Lane with 14 scored and only one conceded in the process. United won at a canter beating a woeful Reading side with a goal inside the first minute and they never looked back. Kieron Freeman’s early goal was added to by a Gary Madine double and a John Fleck deflected effort made it four before the hour mark. United cut the Royals to shreds and time after time got through their defence who oddly continued to try and play the ball out even when in arrears. In truth if were not for the keeper and some better finishing; it actually could have been double the score line it ended up. It was a crucial win with both Norwich and West Brom winning away but with Leeds not playing; United are now back in second place.
Manager Wilder made more chances and some surprise one. Basham was suspended still and O’Connell and Baldock were not risked with injuries and deemed not to have recovered. However, United also changed both the front two with Hogan and Madine starting for McGoldrick and Sharp. Marvin Johnson and Kieron Freeman also came in at wing backs as there were four changes all told. United had good options on the bench to call on if needed. Reading began with some real attacking threats and pace and some talented Premier League loan players involved and still had the likes of Swift, McLeary, O’Shea, Gunter and Bodvarssön on the bench.
It was a rip-roaring start for the Blades as they surged out of the gates and took the lead in the first minute. The ball was played up to Madine who expertly held it up and played in Duffy who with time and space sent over an inviting ball that cut out the keeper and defence. FREEMAN came in at the back post and under pressure from a defender did just enough to turn the ball home. It was a dream start and the visitors looked shell shocked.
United continued to bomb forward and Madine nearly fed Hogan with an intelligent knock down. Duffy was involved in most good things and both wing backs were well advanced. United won a corner and nearly made it two. Some clever head tennis saw Madine and Cranie actually head it into the path of Stevens who had to score but headed over. It was a great chance.
Norwood caught Kelly on half way after Fleck had lost the ball and was booked making it 9 for the season and one away from suspension. This was a rare poor moment for the excellent Blades who were rampant and came again. Madine won a header from Johnson’s cross but the ball was cleared but the second goal was not long in coming.
Reading had been trying to play it out and the keepers short pass out was robbed by Fleck who knocked it forward. Hogan wisely did not get involved as he would have been offside and the ball fell to MADINE who smashed it home to the delight of the crowd.
Just before the goal Kelly had pulled up and he had to be replaced by Swift in another blow to the visitors who had seen things go from bad to worse.
It was all United and Fleck playing very well came forward and hit a low shot that Martinez saved down to his left. Reading had barely had an attack but they did finally get forward and Barrow shot over before they won a corner but despite them having a better spell they did not create much. They continued to try and pass the ball out and Duffy robbed his man. The cross was headed down by Madine but Hogan could not quite get there. The two strikers were combining really well.
A delightful move led to the third goal. Several passes were exchanged before the ball was knocked between Norwood and Fleck before Johnson came onto it. His cross was met by Hogan who looked to turn it goalwards but it was blocked. It fell perfectly for MADINE who again smashed it high into the net for his second goal. After not scoring for almost a year; it was like buses for the big ‘popular’ striker!
At half time Bodvarssön came on for Ejaria but it was not long before United put the game out of sight; at least for those worried about a Villa type turnaround!
FLECK came onto the ball and hit a low shot that deflected off Miazga and sent the keeper the wrong way before nestling into the net.
Even after this goal United kept coming. Norwood hit a powerful shot well saved after more touch and move football that fashioned the chance. It was continuing to be all United in terms of chances even if Reading did finally have a bit more of the ball and half hearted appeals for a penalty when Yiadom went down.
Johnson had two chances as he expertly found space but could not make either count. The first was another great move although Norwood’s final pass was probably a touch heavy and the loanee hit it into the side netting instead of going across goal. On his next chance he did this but the keeper Martinez made a great save pushing away.
Hogan nearly got in but his shot was blocked by Moore after good work from Madine yet again to find him. Duffy then made a great tackle and linked well with Fleck before the big striker could not quite get on the end of things. Cranie was booked as he upended the Reading player on the angle.
Norwood was given a rare opportunity for a breather and already on a yellow; Paul Coutts was given the armband as he replaced him and the final 20 minutes of the game. Oliveira was replaced by McCleary as Reading maybe sensed they would be better not risking a key man with the game effectively finished.
Swift cynically chopped Hogan down as he looked to get away down the left and soon after United kept pulling Reading apart and another nice move saw Duffy’s slide rule pass dissect the Reading defence and Hogan was in. He tried to loft it over the keeper but he made a super save tipping it over the bar.
Freeman pulled up with what seemed like cramp at first but was actually more than that and he seemed to have strained something and Stearman came on in his place with Cranie moving to right wing back.
Dowell came on for Madine soon after the big striker had chased down a defender to make a tackle out wide and seemed to pick up a slight knock but actually seemed fine as he went off as four sides of the Lane gave him a standing ovation; something that no one inside the ground could ever have forseen!
Reading had not had a chance but after Duffy was robbed Baker sprinted forward and worked space to hit a powerful shot but Henderson with his first notable save of the game tipped it round the post. The corner came to nothing and United fashioned another half chance but again Hogan was crowed out as the game went into three minutes of stoppage time. Reading won a free kick in a dangerous position but Baker’s effort was watched wide by Henderson. The final whistle came not long after and the contrasting reactions of the players and fans told a story as United jumped back into the automatic promotion places.
Report by deadbat_db