James Shield’s Big Match Talking Points: The Star’s Sheffield United writer provides his take on today’s match against Reading

The Star's Sheffield United Writer James Shield
The Star's Sheffield United Writer James Shield

Sheffield United climbed to third in the table after beating Reading 2-0 at the Madejski Stadium.

Substitute Billy Sharp broke the deadlock during the closing stages, converting Chris Basham's cross at the far post, before Jack O'Connell turned home John Fleck's corner soon after.

Key Moment: Sheffield United thought they had taken the lead twice during an otherwise forgettable opening period. But first Conor Washington and then David McGoldrick, who later won the corner which saw Chris Basham's effort scrambled clear by Chris Gunter, were adjudged offside. But the introduction of Mark Duffy and later Sharp proved to be the turning points of this match, in front of a sparse home crowd at the Madejski Stadium. With Duffy in midfield, United carried more of a threat going forward which enabled them to play closer to the edge of Reading's penalty area. The pressure told when Sharp turned home at the far post during the closing stages before O'Connell made the game safe.

Key Man: He did not score either goal or claim an assist either. But Duffy's entrance made a real difference to how United went about their business and, as previously stated, had the added effect of pushing Reading further back towards their own box. This increased the pressure on the hosts, who had caused a few issues of their own before the break, and enabled United to make the breakthrough their dominance of both territory and possession deserved. Sharp's presence also guaranteed that the chances Wilder's men had begun to create would eventually tell.

How the Game was Won: Sharp's introduction appeared to put Reading's defence on edge and the centre-forward provided United with the breakthrough their performance deserved when he converted Chris Basham's cross at the far post after David McGoldrick had tried and failed to make a connection. The game was well and truly over when, only minutes later, O'Connell scored the visitors' second. A change of dynamic and approach after the break helped them win this game, and exposed the flaws in Reading's set-up.

Referee Watch: James Linington disallowed two United goals during the first half, albeit at the behest of one of his assistants. The first decision, albeit from the distance of the press box, appeared marginal as Washington turned home Egan's flick-on from Fleck's corner. The second, however, was not. Despite finishing in delightful fashion, McGoldrick, like Washington, had clearly strayed off-side. Perhaps a shade fussy at times but, overall, a satisfactory performance from the officials.

Summary: Sheffield United lacked their usual zip and purpose before the break, as the coaching staff's selections provided the midfield with a tenacious rather than completely creative edge. It meant Reading, despite never really threatening Dean Henderson, were able to establish a foothold of sorts in the game. Mark Duffy's introduction changed the dynamic and meant Wilder's team spent the majority of the second period on the front foot. McGoldrick saw a header saved, substitute Billy Sharp went oh-so-close with a header and John Fleck saw a long-range effort dip just too late to trouble the goalkeeper.