Match Report: 2010/2011 Season

25 April 2011: CHAMPIONSHIP
Reading: Hunt (9 mins), Robson-Kanu (20 mins).
Sheff Utd: Henderson (30, 51 mins), Williamson (45 mins).
Half Time: 2-1.

Attendance: 19,165

Pos Team P Pts GD
4 Swansea 44 74 +21
5 READING 44 73 +25
6 Nottm F 44 69 +12
Reading: A. McCarthy, M. Mills, I. Harte, A. Griffin, Z. Khizanishvili, J. McAnuff, M. Leigertwood, J. Karacan (B. Howard, 73), H. Robson-Kanu (M. Antonio, 64), N. Hunt (M. Manset, 65), S. Long. Subs not used: A. Federici, J. Tabb, S. Church, A. Pearce.
Sheff Utd: S. Simonsen, N. Collins, J. Mattock, S. Lowry, M. Lowton, S. Quinn, B. Riise, L. Williamson, N. Montgomery, D. Henderson, J. Slew (E. Tonne, 76). Subs not used: D. Philliskirk, M. Doyle, R. Kozluk, M. Aksalu, P. Roe.
Reading: -.
Sheff Utd: Lowry.
Ref: Kevin Wright.
Chris Armstrong received a moving and fitting tribute by both sets of fans as he lead out both teams before the kick-off. The sun shone brightly and, apart from the away end, it was a packed Madejski Stadium. There was a good atmosphere and all the pre-match talk was of play-offs or possibly even automatic promotion. Reading raced into a two goal lead in side twenty minutes and threatened to completely overwhelm a United side with little hope of avoiding relegation. The home fans relaxed and sat back in their seats and prepared to bask in the sunshine and the glory of a convincing home win. Sadly for them their team actually believed they had the game won and as every footballer knows you get nothing unless you are prepared to work for it. Today Reading got the reward their effort deserved - nothing. Brian McDermott staunchly defended his players in his post match interview but I can't believe he did not have at least a few strong words in private. It was a frustrating day for all concerned but in spite of this setback Reading are almost certainly in the play-offs. Given that this was their first defeat since February they will probably be quickly forgiven for this lapse.

For twenty minutes Reading tore United apart. Robson-Kanu made a bright start and was halted twice by clumsy challenges. Hunt gave the Royals a deserved lead after eight minutes following an excellent exchange of short passes. He appeared to have missed his chance to cross but surprised Simonsen in the United goal by smashing the ball high into the net from a narrow angle. Reading nearly increased their lead immediately when McAnuff wriggled free of his marker on the half way line when a less honest player might have gone down when pulled back. Having raced clear of the defence he found Karacan whose shot was saved. Hunt followed up and struck a screamer of a shot which was deflected wide. The second goal came after seventeen minutes. Referee Wright sensibly ignored his assistant flagging for a foul on Long which allowed McAnuff to get down the line and cross for Robson-Kanu to prod home from close range.

What happened from that point on was a complete mystery. Collectively the Royals decided to switch off. Nobody seemed to want to mark or close players down. Even the reliable Leigertwood looked hesitant. United were quick to take advantage of such remarkable sloppiness. United found themselves with an extra man on the right inside the box but the defending was so poor Henderson did not need the option. Unopposed he scuffed his shot inside the far post. Reading were unable to cope with United in the air which made them look vulnerable all the time. United equalised on the stroke of half time thanks to further slack defending. Williamson struck his shot smartly in off the post. It is rare to see players given so much time on the ball in the penalty area in professional football. Reading fans were stunned into silence as the small band of away fans began to find their voice.

The second half did not bring the expected onslaught from the Royals and it took United a mere five minutes to take the lead. Robson-Kanu was drawn into a silly challenge on the edge of the box and although Williamson's free kick was superbly saved by McCarthy United were sharper in the six yard box and Henderson headed in from close range with the Reading keeper grounded. United were denied a legitimate fourth goal by an absurd decision by the referee to penalise a United player for intercepting McCarthy's poorly judged throw.

Brian McDermott was now desperate to change the pattern of the game bringing on Manset, Antonio and Howard but in my opinion he would have been better off sticking with his original line up. Only Manset looked likely to create anything although Howard did rouse the crowd when he struck the bar from the edge of the box. United saw the match out comfortably mainly because Reading showed little imagination in breaking down a defence that won everything in the air and a 'keeper who looked like catching anything which dropped in his six yard box. It was a defeat which was hard to take but not as hard to stomach as the booing from some of the home fans on the final whistle. I suspect that most of them had not seen the better performances earlier in the season which have pushed the Royals into play-off contention. Improvement and more commitment will be required against Coventry and Derby to get everyone in the mood for what I am sure will be an exciting climax to the season.

John Wells

Well. Great, high-tempo first 20 minutes, well set up goal from Noel and then Hal's second 6-yarder in a few matches, 2-0 up and cruising... then we turned off. For both their goals in the first half there was absolutely no tracking, just seemed happy to let them run with the ball without ever stepping in, and we went in 2-2. Heard Jobi scream in frustration just after they scored their goal, summed it up really. We knew we shouldn't have let it happen. Come the second half, and it was a sucker punch to concede so early. I might be wrong here, but I thought McCarthy was too far behind his wall for that goal and not near enough the post, which led to him overstretching and losing the ball, resulting in the goal. But either way, a poor goal to concede. From there, well, just frustration - they defended with their backs to the wall, and we couldn't find that equaliser. Somehow, we never looked urgent enough. The substitutions made sense to me - Hal had faded from the game (as he did against Leeds), and Noel's first touch really is abysmal. Karacan, whilst giving us energy, doesn't offer enough going forward, and Howard was always looking for the ball on the floor rather than going for the long pump forward (as most of the team seemed to go for). He also hit the bar.

I think the ball was passed across to someone who was offside, not 100% sure though. Performance was absolutely DIRE when they scored their first. Not hopeful for the play-offs at all if we defend anywhere near how we did today. Another time this season where our centre backs have been laughed at by a big centre forward, the other time that sticks out was grant holt. We do not like playing against physical presences at the back so to everyone worried by swansea, it might be a blessing playing against quicker centre forwards rather than one's that hold the ball up and win headers. I'm a pessimist, but I really can't see how this team can get promoted, too many false dawns in the play-offs, we play well going into them and lose, we are favourites and lose, we are underdogs with momentum and lose, the continuous pattern is....we always lose. Not up for seeing swansea celebrate getting to Wembeley in our ground like they've won the world cup, seen it all before.

Bemused, frustrated and disappointed after that today; as has been said, playing some great football for the first 20-25 mins, totally ripped Sheffield Utd apart, and if it wasn't for Simonsen in goal the game would have been out of reach before the half hour mark. But the Shef Utd seemed to switch to playing 5 across the middle and 3 at the back, and with Quinn totally running the show from then on (thats the worst game the karacan/leigertwood combo has had) they got back in with a terrible goal from our point of view (a typical Henderson goal......a mishit that bobbled over the line) but even then its a case of "well, keep your shape, get to half-time, re-group, begin again and finish them off..." but instead we concede ANOTHER soft goal right on half time, followed by their winner early im the 2nd half, which came from a needless foul conceded by HRK which McCarthy did well to parry, but Shef U followed it up better and that was that.
Lots of huff & puff after that, Howard unlucky with the shot that hit the bar whilst Antonio showed glimpses of what he can do but in the end Shef U comfortable winners. Play-offs are ALL but secured (we would need to lose both games badly and have Millwall win both their games well) so this result in the context of will we reach the play-offs is in many respects an irrelevance; HOWEVER, it is how the team pick themselves up after this which is going to be vital. Win the last 2 and it sets up the Play-offs nicely; lose them, and we go into the play-offs without momentum.
Mr Angry

Got an opinion? E-Mail us at
Appropriate submissions will appear on match report pages

Though the defeat prevented Brian McDermott's Reading from cementing a play-off place, another point from their final two fixtures will be enough to extend their season. It looked like Reading would coast to victory as they dominated early on, Shane Long threatening when he pounced on a poor piece of control from Stephen Quinn 25 yards from goal, but he fired over. Hunt opened the scoring in the ninth minute after Long played in his strike partner on the left and the Republic of Ireland international cut inside before flashing a shot high between goalkeeper Steve Simonsen and his near post. The pressure was relentless from the Royals and it was no surprise when Robson-Kanu doubled the lead in the 20th minute. Long was fouled but the referee played the advantage, allowing Jobi McAnuff to put in a low cross which Steve Simonsen could only divert into the path of Robson-Kanu, who hooked the ball into the empty net. The Blades looked ragged and had barely made it into the Reading half when they pulled one back with their first shot, on the half-hour mark. Former Reading striker Henderson bundled through the Berkshire side's defence and chipped a shot wide of Alex McCarthy and into the corner.

Suddenly United found reserves of fight that had previously been non-existent. And they deservedly drew level at the start of first-half stoppage time when Quinn made progress down the left before finding Williamson breaking into the area, from where the midfielder sent a left-footed shot into the net. And Henderson, who had not scored in six previous appearances this season, completed the comeback when he tapped in on the line early in the second half. The Reading players were barely able to hide their shock and began to bicker amongst themselves as Sheffield United launched a rearguard action, making last-ditch challenges and throwing bodies in front of shots. Blades youngster Jordan Slew thought he had made it four for United but his slotted shot into the empty net after the Reading keeper's clearance had come off Henderson was chalked off for a foul in the build-up. Henderson was then denied a hat-trick by a brilliant save from McCarthy before Reading substitute Brian Howard almost relegated his former side when he struck the crossbar with a floated effort.

BBC Sport