Reading 4 (Hunt 5, 50 Leigertwood 39, McCleary 54)
Sheffield United 0
The Royals cruised through to the FA Cup Fifth Round with a 4-0 victory over Sheffield United.
Noel Hunt opened the scoring after five minutes, heading home Hal Robson-Kanu’s cross – and although the Blades responded well Mikele Leigertwood’s pile driver doubled the deficit shortly before half time.
Hunt had his brace five minutes after the break, as he scuffed home Garath McCleary’s cross – and McCleary himself bagged the fourth as he danced inside before clinically firing past George Long.
Royals: Federici; Kelly, Shorey, Mariappa, Morrison; Karacan, Leigertwood (c) (Guthrie 84), McCleary, Robson-Kanu; Hunt, Le Fondre.
Subs: Taylor, Cummings, Pearce, Guthrie, Kebe, McAnuff, Church.
Blades: Long; McMahon, Westlake (Collins 76), Higginbotham, Maguire; Doyle (c), McDonald (Whitehouse 70), Murphy, Blackman, Porter (Flynn 60), Kitson.
Subs: Coyne, Collins, Ironside, Flynn, Whitehouse, Cresswell, De Girolamo
The opening stages of the game were almost played out in anticipation of the third minute tribute to Chris Armstrong, which was magnificently observed by both sets of supporters – and indeed both managers.
It was fitting therefore, when the Royals took the lead shortly afterwards. Hal Robson-Kanu’s threatening cross was met well by Noel Hunt, who rose to head home from five yards to give his side the lead.
The Blades attempted to respond moments later, with Nick Blackman beating his man down the right wing before flashing a cross-come-shot into the six yard box, which flicked off a Reading boot before flying narrowly wide.
The League One outfit were making a fight of it; Chris Porter was next to come close, as he glanced a header wide after Jamie Murphy’s curling cross found United’s number nine lurking in the box.
Adam Federici was forced into action in the 35th minute – Jamie Murphy found space on the left before firing a low shot in at goal, which the Australian palmed away from danger.
At the other end the red hot boot of Adam Le Fondre was in action again, as he spun before forcing George Long into a smart save, before the Royals got their second through their stand in captain Mikele Leigertwood.
The former Blades midfielder found space 25 yards from goal before unleashing what has been commonly known as the ‘Ledge Hammer’ – a sizzling strike which flew into the top corner, leaving Long with absolutely no chance.
It was only five minutes into the second period that the Royals extended their lead to three – Garath McLeary again marauding down the right before cutting a bobbling cross back into the area. It wasn’t the cleanest of hits by Hunt, but nevertheless the Irishman had his brace as he saw his strike bobble past a wrong-footed Long.
United heads dropped, and Reading had their fourth four minutes later. McCleary danced in from the left after good work by Le Fondre – and after flummoxing his marker sent a pinpoiont shot into the bottom left hand corner.
Danny Wilson’s side made some effort to respond, with Kevin McDonald whipping in a daisy cutter from 20-yards – which Federici did well to tip around the post.
From the resulting corner Nick Blackman’s drive seemed destined to find the net, only for Kelly to brilliantly clear off the line.
McCleary took advantage of a swift break from Robson-Kanu with 22 minutes remaining on the clock, but couldn’t match Hunty’s brace as he attempted a snap shot from the edge of the D – which slipped off target.
Some wonderful play by Blades top scorer Blackman presented Ryan Flynn with a golden chance 10 minutes time – but the midfielder squandered it, heading into the sidenetting with the goal gaping at the far post.
And that was it at Madejski Stadium – a professional performance from Brian McDermott's men, and another memorable cup run on the cards!