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Report | Royals roundly beaten by Blades

Promotion chasers comfortably overcome Reading

16 February 2019

Automatic promotion hopefuls, Sheffield United, showed their class as they swept Reading aside with a 4-0 win against the Royals on Saturday.

Kieron Freeman put the Blades ahead inside the first minute in South Yorkshire, before a brace from Gary Madine put the hosts 3-0 up at the interval.

A heavily-deflected effort the other side of the interval from John Fleck secured all three points for the Blades, who moved into the Championship's top two with the win.

Reading started the match with three changes from the midweek victory against Blackburn, as Yakou Méïté, Mo Barrow and Lewis Baker were all reinstated into the starting line-up.

But the game only had 38 seconds on the clock and the promotion chasing home side were ahead. Mark Duffy found joy on the right and got played in behind the Reading back line. He played low to the far post, with Kieron Freeman bundling in from only a couple of yards.

Reading looked shellshocked as the Blades burst out of the blocks at Bramall Lane, almost doubling their lead after former Royal, Ollie Norwood, headed into the path of Enda Stevens in the Reading box - who nodded over the bar from eight yards.

But eventually the Royals began to find their rhythm, as they saw more of the ball and looked to cause problems for the United defence.

However, a defensive mix-up saw the hosts go two ahead. A ball out from Martínez saw Liam Kelly caught in possession by Freeman and the ball bounced forward into the area. Liam Moore got their first to block, but only into the path of Gary Madine, who had time to control and fire into the top corner.

After sustaining a couple of big knocks in midfield that required treatment, Kelly was withdrawn shortly afterwards and John Swift entered the fray with fewer than 20 minutes on the clock.

A brief spell of possession saw Swift play to Barrow in space 30 yards out. With the Royals desperate to get on the board, Barrow took aim but didn't trouble Dean Henderson in the Blades' goal, as his effort comfortably cleared the crossbar.

Having gone behind so early on, Reading were up against it as they looked for a route back into the match on a sunny afternoon in Sheffield. Even though the Royals began to dominate the ball, the Blades seemed content to sit on their lead and keep their players behind play as time ticked on towards half time.

But the hosts found another gear heading towards the break, and were rewarded with a third goal. After an earlier attack had been thwarted, the ball was left loose in the box and Madine charged in and fired into the roof of the net to score his second of the half.

A 45-minute period to forget from a Reading perspective, against a team fighting right at the sharp end of the Championship table.

Half time | Sheffield United 3-0 Reading

Reading started the second half with an attacking substitution that forced a change of shape, with Jón Daði Böðvarsson replacing Ovie Ejaria.

But it just looked like it would be one of those days for the Royals - as evidenced by United's fourth goal. John Fleck took aim from 25 yards, struck low but a hefty deflection from a Reading body wrong-footed Emi Martínez and rolled into the bottom corner. 

Chris Wilder's side showed the class that has taken them to the sharp end of the table this season, stringing plenty of passes together before Norwood could strike, with Martínez getting down low to save well.

United continued to press for more against the Royals, but Reading had appeals for a penalty turned away when Yiadom burst into the area, running up against a brick wall in Egan, but the referee was quick to wave away the protests.

The game appeared over as a contest, and the hosts appeared happy with their afternoon's work as they kept up the pressure on the top two in the Championship.

Garath McCleary was introduced for the final 15 minutes for the Royals, with Oliveira withdrawn.

Martínez prevented a fifth with a superb flying save, as Hogan was played clean through on goal - trying to lob the goalkeeper but the on-loan stopper managed to dive backwards and claw it over the bar.

The closest Reading came was eight minutes from time, as McCleary made up ground on the right and squared back for Swift in the area. He tried a flicked first-time finish, but it dropped narrowly wide of Henderson's post. Not long after, Baker tried to curl a 20-yard strike into the far corner, which Henderson watched all the way and produced a smart save to his left.

An afternoon that the Royals will hope to recover from quickly, with the two teams fighting very different battles until the end of this season.

Full time | Sheffield United 4-0 Reading

Sheffield United: Henderson, Stevens, Egan, Duffy, Fleck, Freeman (Stearman 77), Johnson, Norwood (c) (Coutts 72), Cranie, Madine (Dowell 84), Hogan.
Subs: Moore, Lundstram, Sharp, McGoldrick.
Goals: Freeman (1), Madine (16, 44), Fleck (49)
Yellow: Norwood

Reading: Martínez, Yiadom, Moore (c), Miazga, Richards, Baker, Kelly (Swift 19), Ejaria (Böðvarsson HT), Barrow, Méïté, Oliveira (McCleary 75).
Subs: Walker, Gunter, O'Shea, Harriott.
Yellow: Swift

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