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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 January 2007, 17:01 GMT
Reading 3-1 Sheff Utd
By John May

Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock
Blades boss Warnock shows his feelings
Reading emerged as comfortable winners against Sheffield United in an explosive match at the Madejski.

Shane Long stabbed in the first but the game erupted when Ulises De la Cruz got a second with a fine run and finish.

Keith Gillespie was sent off within 10 seconds of coming on, and Blades boss Neil Warnock and Reading's Wally Downes were dismissed after a touchline melee.

Stephen Hunt hooked in from close range before Christian Nade beat the offside trap to slot home a late consolation.

The result means Reading are probably only two wins away from Premiership safety, while the Blades are only four points clear of the bottom three.

Ivar Ingimarsson should have given Reading an early lead as he lost marker Claude Davis at a Glen Little corner, only to head over.

Little hinted he could be the prime outlet for Reading by tricking his way past Derek Geary to deliver threatening crosses which screamed out for the sort of finishing touch the injured Kevin Doyle might have provided.

606 DEBATE: Give your thoughts on the match

The Blades' ploy to over-populate midfield made for a scrappy encounter but had the desired effect as Reading laboured to create anything going forward.

It was 38 minutes until either keeper was worked, with Paddy Kenny plunging to tip away Graeme Murty's long-range effort.

Leroy Lita missed a great opportunity when he beat Kenny to a through ball and with Davis covering on the goal-line, fired the ball into the side-netting.

Reading went ahead just before the break when Steve Sidwell surged into the box and got a break when Chris Lucketti's clearance rebounded off him and into the path of Long who tucked the chance away from close-range.

The Blades' hopes of getting back into the game were hit when Reading doubled their lead through De la Cruz.

There was another large slice of fortune involved as the Ecuador defender's surge from the left-back berth was initially halted by Stephen Quinn's challenge, but the ball again fell kindly for James Harper.

Reading striker Shane Long
Long's goal opened the scoring for Reading

Hunt's pass found the Ecuadorian continuing his forward run and the left-back finished coolly from the inside-right position.

But Reading's second goal was merely the spark to ignite an explosion in the match.

Within 10 seconds of coming on as substitute Gillespie was heading back down the tunnel after being shown a red card by referee Mark Halsey for throwing an elbow in the direction of Hunt.

As Gillespie headed down the tunnel he threw another punch at Hunt, and as tempers rose, backroom staff from both sides became involved.

Reading coach Downes was sent from the touchline for shoving Blades' boss Warnock, who followed him to the stands.

A football match eventually broke out again, but Sheffield's hopes of getting back into the game not only disappeared down the tunnel with Gillespie, but with a third Reading goal.

Reading took advantage of their man advantage by working the ball wide and although Rob Kozluk blocked Sidwell's initial shot, the ball fell kindly for Hunt who reacted sharply to turn the loose ball home.

Sheffield United at least had the consolation of a goal, when slack defending at a free-kick left Nade clear to score from eight yards.

  • Reading manager Steve Coppell
    "There were a number of factors that made it a hard day but we did well to beat a well-organised team.

    "I thought they were going to be difficult to break down and I was just pleased to go in with what I hoped was a significant half-time lead."

  • Blades' boss Neil Warnock rues Keith Gillespie's costly red card:
    "I couldn't see them scoring a goal in the first half, but they got a break and went in front.

    "I wanted to give it 10 minutes in the second half and change things round. I was going to give it a go.

    "But we never had the chance to do that and get back into the game because Keith never touched the ball."

    Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Sonko (Bikey 43), Ingimarsson, De la Cruz, Little, Sidwell, Harper, Hunt (Convey 85), Lita, Long (Ki-Hyeon 73).
    Subs Not Used: Federici, Oster.

    Booked: Sidwell.

    Goals: Long 44, De la Cruz 50, Hunt 70.

    Sheff Utd: Kenny, Kozluk, Davis (Bromby 64), Lucketti, Geary (Gillespie 53), Armstrong, Jagielka, Montgomery, Stephen Quinn, Stead (Nade 72), Hulse.
    Subs Not Used: Gerrard, Alan Quinn.

    Sent Off: Gillespie (55).

    Booked: Jagielka.

    Goals: Nade 77.

    Att: 23,956

    Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

    Saturday's football photos
    20 Jan 07 |  Football


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