Sheffield United 1 Reading 2: Coppell admits to being 'wide-eyed' at Reading's start

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The Independent Football

Watching Reading's increasingly desperately attempts to repel wave after wave of late Sheffield United attacks on Saturday, it was hard to believe this was the same team who could - probably should - have been at least four goals to the good by half-time.

It is part of the curious nature of football that overwhelming superiority is not always proportionally rewarded by goals; as also is the tendency for a 2-0 scoreline that becomes 2-1 to lead to wholesale panic.

Such was Reading's domination of the first hour of this game that when Rob Hulse turned smartly and capitalised on Marcus Hahnemann's failure to cover his near post it really should have made little difference.

But it did. United's late rally salvaged some self- respect and also recovered goodwill from the home fans who had booed them off at half-time, while Reading retreated deep into their own half after withdrawing a striker and adopted a five-man midfield.

Even Steve Coppell, the Reading manager, was unsure if this was a wise move. "I always think that 2-0 is a very dangerous score," he said. "In many ways I'd have preferred to have kept our shape and done some more attacking but I just felt they were going to cause us problems and we had to match them man for man," he said.

Since Reading went on to claim their first-ever away win in the Premiership the tactics were ultimately justified. They were presented with the lead after just 16 seconds - and this after United had kicked off. As good as Kevin Doyle's first touch and finish were, it must be said the defending of Chris Morgan and David Unsworth was shoddy.

Reading went two ahead when Leroy Lita found Seol Ki-Hyeon, who turned inside Morgan and fired into the bottom corner.

Even though ultimately futile, late pressure at least took Sheffield United minds off the their predicament - two points from five games and their next fixture, Neil Warnock's 1,000th as a manager, is away to Arsenal.

By contrast, Reading stand in the top half of the Premiership and look forward to the visit of Manchester United at the weekend. On the horizon are further home games against Arsenal and Chelsea, but Coppell denied these looming fixtures made three points on Saturday all the more valuable.

"We are wide-eyed and enjoying this opportunity," Coppell said. "But if you go into one match saying 'let's give it extra' because you're going to get hammered next week then there's something wrong."

Goals: Doyle (1) 0-1; Seol (25) 0-2; Hulse (60) 1-2.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Bennett; Sommeil, Bromby (Nade, 88), Morgan, Unsworth (Gillespie, 46); Ifill (Quinn, 46), Leigertwood, Jagielka, Armstrong; Hulse, Akinbiyi. Substitutes not used: Kozluk, Kazim-Richards.

Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Seol (Gunnarsson, 66), Harper, Sidwell, Convey (Hunt, 72); Lita (Little, 66), Doyle. Substitutes not used: Stack (gk), Long.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).

Bookings: Sheffield Unsworth, Sommeil; Reading Little.

Man of the match: Sidwell.

Attendance: 25,011.