Neil Warnock, the Sheffield United manager, said in his programme notes that Reading must have thought the Premiership was "a piece of cake" following their two early home wins. If they did not already, the Berkshire club must surely have agreed with his assessment after a breathtaking first-half performance yesterday that should have led to the most comprehensive of away victories.
As it was, a goal within 16 seconds from Kevin Doyle and Seol Ki-Hyeon's sweetly struck second were Reading's only rewards for a performance of humiliatingly total dominance.
The only complaint Steve Coppell, Reading's manager, could possibly have had was his side's failure to convert chances - something that almost cost them the game after Rob Hulse had struck on the hour to bring United back into a game that should have been long beyond them.
Thankfully, in the interests of sporting justice, Reading held on amid increasing pressure to record their third win of the season and climb into the top six of the Premiership. "We're just trying to accumulate points and we don't care where we get them," said Coppell. "In the first 45 minutes we played fantastically well but we knew there would be a Warnock-type reaction and there was. We lost our fluency a bit and after they scored it was an entirely different type of game."
"I thought if we got a goal we still might be able to get back into the match and there were a lot of pluses in the second half," Warnock said. "But to give them a goal start so early gave them a massive confidence boost."
Barely 18 seconds had elapsed when Reading took the lead - and that after the home side had kicked off. A long ball was chipped towards Ade Akinbiyi and the resultant loose ball was seized on by Bobby Convey. His pass caught David Unsworth and Chris Morgan out and Doyle controlled expertly, waiting for Ian Bennett to go to ground a fraction early before poking the ball calmly over the goalkeeper.
United looked dumbfounded and Reading gleefully sought to capitalise with the kind of football that led to them amassing a record 106 points in the Championship last season. Seol and Leroy Lita both had powerful drives by Bennett and James Harper's precise shot came back off the far post.
A second goal had to arrive and the only surprise was that it took 25 minutes. Nicky Shorey made the initial incursion, slipping a pass into Lita's feet. The forward looked up to pick out Seol, and the South Korean cut inside Morgan with embarrassing ease before shooting past Bennett, who was deputising for the injured Paddy Kenny.
Reading began the second half in similar style, with Ivar Ingimarsson's cross bobbling across goal and Lita's header from a Seol free-kick forcing a save from Bennett. But United eventually started to enjoy some possession and they were handed the unlikeliest of footholds in the game when Marcus Hahnemann allowed Hulse's admittedly fierce shot to beat him at the near post.
Reading's American World Cup keeper did redeem himself late on by pushing Keith Gillespie's shot past the post as his side finished the game in a state of unlikely panic.Reuse content