Madness at the Madejski
Reading 3-1 Sheffield United
If only Sylvester Stallone had chosen this game instead of Reading's last game, he would have thought it was his premiere for his latest Rocky film due to the mass brawl that arose in the second half. In all honesty it was the flashpoint in what was a poorly contested tie which the hosts did deserve to win.
The optimism that lingered throughout the arduous trip down petered out rapidly as our relentless dire run against the Royals continues. It now stretches back to 2002 when the Blades were victorious via a 2-0 win, but since then Reading have held a vast superiority over us.
Despite a degrading performance, all Readings goals had elements of luck about them, and to compound a miserable afternoon results hardly helped at the bottom. Once again Blades fans did ourselves justice by singing loud and proud, drowning out their few hundred that bothered to test us. Still this failed to reflect on the pitch in a game that was hugely overshadowed by the fracas early in the second half.
In a first half deprived of any real opportunities, the entertainment came by means of the idiotic fans to the right of us exchanging insults with us and Paddy Kenny, who took the abuse on the chin. Paddy then got one back with a superb save from Graeme Murty's long range strike. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about Reading's opener. Chris Lucketti inadvertently hit Steve Sidwell and it fell kindly to Shane Long who tucked home sublimely under Kenny.
It might have been two, but for a stunning save from Kenny following the notorious Stephen Hunt's header and when Leroy Lita drove the ball across goal, Long failed to connect with real conviction. The second half began as badly as the first had ended, with Ulysses De La Cruz sprinting through after a fortunate ricochet fell to James Harper, the latter finding De La Cruz who found the corner with great precision under a despairing Kenny.
What happened next could only be described as farcical with the handbags flailing all over the dugout and the pitch. After coming on Keith Gillespie appeared to elbow Hunt, and following much deliberation with his linesman, referee Mark Halsley rightly sent the Irishman off. This sparked Neil Warnock into an attack on Sidwell for an earlier challenge on Chris Armstrong which infuriated Reading coach Wally Downes into pushing Warnock. Both Warnock and Downes were justifiably sent off to follow Gillespie's hypercritical antics.
Due to the numerical disadvantage the Blades possessed it was a formality that a rampant Reading side were to effectively kill the game off. Following a cross on the right Sidwell saw a shot cleared of the line and the ball ricocheted in the air to Hunt who produced an exquisite flick past a despondent Kenny.
We rallied despite having ten men, in fact we probably played better and we were rewarded for our fine support with a fine consolation goal. Hunt cynically scythed down Nick Montgomery, and from the resulting free kick, substitute Christian Nade beat Reading's woeful attempt at an offside trap, and finished well under Marcus Hanhemann. A meager performance led to this demoralising defeat which leaves us dangerously close above the drop zone.
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