United dominated large parts of the game and were in complete control at the break thanks to Billy Sharp and Mark Duffy but a goal quickly into the second half from sub Richards gave the Royals hope.
More Blades chances were missed and then unbelievably Reading got a penalty after a soft award from the referee. Simon Moore who had errored on the goal made amends with a great save and then soon after Sharp stole in to score a typical poachers goal. Reading felt United should have returned the ball as they kicked it out but there was no clear sign of a Reading player needing treatment. In truth, United ran out worthy winners and with better finishing it could have been a hammering for the home side. The Blades missed at least 4 or 5 guilt edged chances with many being one on one opportunities with just the keeper to beat.
Manager Wilder made just one change despite the criticism from the defeat at Hull with Mark Duffy coming in for Ryan Leonard. Ricky Holmes was on the bench but there was still no place for the injured David Brooks.
The game began with blue lines and a dusting of snow on the field and we began with a yellow ball against a green and white (snow) pitch we made it quite hard to pick out! The match began with McCleary pulling up quite early and having to be replaced by Richards. United were hungry from the off and won a number of midfield challenges and Duffy was getting on the ball early. Clarke’s chasing down of a defender saw him rob Moore and he was in on goal but agonisingly slid the ball the wrong side of the post with just the keeper to beat. Soon after Duffy and Sharp combined and Clarke rounded the keeper but was blocked out and tried to square the ball and Reading cleared. United won a corner soon after and were well on top. The opening goal came deservedly so soon after. Clarke made it with a run and inviting cross and SHARP met it and his first effort was well saved but he reacted well to turn home the rebound. It had been a very good start and the goal had been coming.
The domination continued with the defence on the front foot, Fleck and Evans winning everything and the front two looking a threat in behind. Already it was night and day from the performance at Hull.
Reading had their first chance on 20 minutes when Clement had a low shot saved from Blackman. It may have not even been going in but the keeper was right to turn it behind. Sharp was nearly in at the other end and then Evans fired just off target as the Blades continued to dominate. However, they had a blow on the half hour as unbelievably both Clarke and Moore hit the floor at either end of the field and led to treatment for both players. Both had pulled up after previous incidents; one where Blackman had saved earlier and seemed to feel his back and was struggling after this and Clarke for a run where he seemed to pull or strain a muscle. Both could not continue and Moore and Donaldson came on. It was a real double blow in a game United had dominated.
Fleck showed great skill to nutmeg a player and run away but his final ball was cut out as United still were showing all the quality in the game.
The game became scrappy for a spell but more good work from Fleck led to an early chance from Donaldson but he shot wide. Still United continued to control things despite the injuries and the second goal finally came and what a beauty it was. From play down the left, DUFFY picked it up came inside and hit a thunderbolt that fairly arrowed into the top right-hand corner of Mannone’s goal. It was a superb goal and he ran to celebrate with bench.
Soon after and it should have been 3-0. Sharp got in and checked back but shot narrowly wide with his left foot with just the keeper to beat. The Reading fans were now loudly booing their teams’ performance in which the visitors had completely taken them to the cleaners and should have been out of sight. The half time whistle came soon after this.
The second half saw Reading come out more determined and it was not long before they were back in the game from nothing.
Stevens gave the ball away and after Kelly sprinted away from Basham; the United man pulled him down and was booked. The free kick was in a dangerous position and Bacuna got it over the wall but Moore was able to get to the ball. Sadly, he could only push it out a few yards and in came substitute RICHARDS who smashed high into the net and Reading were back in a game they should never have been in.
United tried to come again and Fleck’s great run saw him upended on the edge of the box and a booking for Van de Berg. Duffy took it but it was a poor one and straight at the keeper from an excellent position. Baldock was then played in by Sharp and was in on goal but Mannone saved. It was another one on one wasted!
United should have been in control but suddenly the game was in the balance when the conceded a penalty. Kelly pushed the ball into the box and then seemed to overrun it and Stearman stood his ground. The Reading player fell to the floor and the referee after some time gave a penalty. It was an incredibly harsh decision and United players were incensed. After the complaints; Bacuna took it and hit it hard to Moore’s right but he guessed right and sprang to push the ball away. It was a great save and the United players duly mobbed him. It was not long before they were celebrating at the other end.
The ball was kicked out by Reading as they seemed to think a player was injured but the player had actually got up. United took the throw on half way and after a neat move, Fleck sent a delightful ball over the top and SHARP beat the offside trap and clipped home past the advancing Mannone who came out. A few Reading players appealed that the Blades should have returned the ball but it seemed they had simply switched off and United caught them out in a sucker punch. From a game that could have been 2-2; the Blades were now 3-1 up and a more realistic score line. Sharp celebrated wildly with his teammates in front of the Blades fans as the Reading fans gave him a different kind of reaction.
Sharp’s excellent night continued as he got away from his man and squared but Donaldson prodded wide at the near post. Evans came on for Bacuna for Reading who now were struggling to put two passes together and United were now firmly back in control. Fleck drew another foul and booking and then Smith came on for Ilori for the home side in their final change. United had another golden chance as Donaldson got in and had just the keeper to beat but clipped it wide and then soon after Fleck shot wide. Despite the domination and chances missed, Reading had a good chance when Martin shot narrowly wide after good work from Kelly again.
Duffy was limping and came off to be replaced by Leonard before Bodvarrson shot wide after a corner under pressure from Stearman. The final moments saw United see out the game professionally and they kept the ball well as Reading looked a side well beaten. Four minutes of additional time saw little of note happen and the Blades could celebrate getting back into the top 6.