It took just 40 seconds for all the positivity that the fans had prior to the game to get wiped out. That’s how long it took Reading to kick off and for Sheffield United to score – yep you read that right – we kicked off.
Reading looked nervy at the back and the previously unflappable Matt Miazga conceded a cheap corner, and his centre back partner in Liam Moore also looked horribly exposed with little protection from the midfield or their fullbacks.
Reading looked to rebuild after a horrendous start and any hopes of getting back into the game were wiped out on 16 minutes when Gary Madine scored after Emiliano Martinez presented Liam Kelly with a suicidal pass. With Kelly still nursing a knock that a robust challenge from Norwood had caused, he was easily pushed off the ball and Madine finished off the goal.
John Swift came on for Kelly on 19 minutes with the latter hobbling off with an ankle injury, and Swift did improve the team, but United looked like they had another four gears at any one point.
The rest of the first half was a series of fouls and missed opportunities, until the 44th minute when Hogan was in acres of space on the wing with Yiadom nowhere in sight, and picked off Gary Madine to get his second of the game. If the second goal hadn’t killed the contest then the third most certainly did.
The Royals were late coming out and I’m pretty sure that Jose Gomes had read the Riot Act to them during the break, before bringing on Jon Dadi Bodvarsson for a largely ineffective Ovie Ejaria, who it transpires had picked up a knock. This seemed to mean that the Royals switched to a 4-4-2 formation from the 4-3-3 they started with.
This season the Royals have had an issue with the first 10 minutes after the break and this game was no exception, with John Fleck rifling in a fierce shot that deflected of an unfortunate Miazga, leaving Martinez stranded.
4-0 after just 49 minutes, and that meant in effect the game was over. The rest of the second half was littered with fouls, with Reading trying to create something but it always seemed United had another gear they could click into at any point. Reading did huff and puff in the last quarter but in effect it was far too little too late.
I have to give credit to Martinez though after a very difficult afternoon between the sticks, as he pulled off a really smart flying save from Hogan who was clear though in the second half.
The nearest we came to getting anything were: a penalty decision that didn’t go Andy Yiadom’s way when he was blocked off by Egan, but the referee wasn’t interested, and Lewis Baker putting a free kick narrowly wide.
I don’t think anyone expected us to get anything out of this game, but the manner of the defeat does leave questions. Sheffield United are a class team, and Chris Wilder has built a well-drilled side, but they don’t need helping hands.
It is surprising/alarming to see the impact that taking Andy Rinomhota out of this team has. For basically a kid to come into the centre of midfield and dominate the way he has is impressive, and having him out of this team is a serious miss. Similarly, we have an issue upfront as Oliveira needs support. Yakou Meite and Modou Barrow were shocking, and against Rotherham United this team needs to click and put in a damn better performance that this one.
The other aspect is the full-backs. Tyler Blackett must be seething if he was dropped and not injured, so he has to come back in place of an ineffective Omar Richards.
On to Rotherham, and if there’s a must-win game it’s this one.
Martinez; Yiadom, Miazga, Moore, Richards; Kelly (Swift 19), Baker; Meite, Ejaria (Bodvarsson 45), Barrow, Oliveira (McCleary 75)