MATCH REPORT: 2005/2006 Season

Reading: Gunnarsson (3 mins, 89 mins).
Sheff Utd: Kabba (15 mins).
Half Time: 1-1
Attendance: 22,068

Pos Team P Pts GD
1 Sheff Utd 12 30 +13
2 READING 12 27 +14
3 Luton 12 24 +8
Reading: Hahnemann, Hunt, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Makin, Convey (Baradji 67), Harper, Gunnarsson, Little (Oster 45), Doyle, Lita (Obinna 78). Subs Not Used: Osano, Federici.
Sheff Utd: Kenny, Bromby, Morgan, Unsworth, Kozluk, Ifill (Gillespie 67), Jagielka, Montgomery, Quinn (Webber 90), Kabba, Shipperley (Pericard 90). Subs Not Used: Tonge, Geary.
Reading: -
Sheff Utd: Quinn, Kenny, Morgan.
Referee: G Hegley (Hertfordshire).

Two goals from Reading midfielder Brynjar Gunnarsson, one at the very start of the game and one in the closing minutes, secured a dramatic victory for the Royals over league leaders Sheffield United. The victory ended United's run of eight league wins in a row and extended Reading's unbeaten run to thirteen games. The win saw Reading close the gap to just three points at the top of the Championship table.

It was an afternoon full of drama at the Madejski Stadium with both teams unhappy at the referee's performance. The visitors were exteremely lucky to finish the first half with eleven players, after their goalkeeper clearly should have been shown the red card for a handball outside the area that saved a near certain Reading goal. The referee missed the incident entirely but after consoltation with his linesman eventually gave the free-kick, but only a yellow card. It was a huge let-off for United who had earlier come from a goal down after a breath-taking start from the Royals.

Reading put in a stunning opening five minutes and could have moved at least two goals ahead when Ingimarsson missed a close range header and Lita put the ball wide. With just three minutes on the clock, Little crossed from the right to Gunnarsson in the centre of the area who drove a low shot into the back of the net. For a moment it looked like Reading would move further ahead before United gained their composure - which led to an equaliser after fifteen minutes. The rest of the half was an even affair but Reading lost their shape after the break when Little was replaced at half time. When Convey went off with just over twenty minutes left to play Reading seemed to lose a lot of options, with no power down the wings, and were forced on the defensive.

United enjoyed virtually all of the second half posession but failed to make it count as they struggled to break through the Reading defence. Compared to the first half the second was a disappointing display from both sides and scrappy at times. However, Reading were content to soak up the pressure, and the defence was again impressive. Sheffield United felt they had a break through when Harper flew into their player in the Reading area for what looked like a definite penalty - but again the referee waved play-on.

With time running out, Reading stepped up the pace and went on their first sustained period of attack of the whole second half. After a short period of pressure, the winner came from a free-kick on the right. Baradji floated the ball over and Gunnarsson rose to put a glancing header on the ball to send it into the far corner of the net. The Madejski Stadium erupted as Reading's amazing season continued.

Folowing report by John Wells:
Once again Reading fans were treated to a highly entertaining game at the Madejski Stadium. Today it was the turn of the league leaders to lose out in a full blooded encounter. The national press will no doubt focus on the controversial refereeing decisions of Mr Hegley and the undignified outburst from Neil Warnock. They will also probably offer the view that United deserved a better reward for their efforts. On the balance of play, especially in the second half, they may have a point. However, if they choose to undervalue what I feel was another fine performance from the Royals, it is fine by me. Considering there were only five first choice players on the field for Reading for most of the second half, United found it remarkably difficult to breach the home defence. I don't recall Hahnemann making a save in spite of United's territorial dominance.

The game started at an incredible pace with Reading pinning United back and scoring inside two minutes when Gunnarsson fired home from just inside the box from a Little corner. Little could easily have scored either side of the goal. He had a shot blocked, and later completely mis-kicked when a good chance presented itself on his wrong foot. United were prepared to trade punches in the first fifteen minutes. There was certainly no hint of any sparring! It was no surprise when an Ifill cross was knocked back across goal for Kabba to nip in for the equaliser. Having frightened each other, both side slowed the game down with a slightly more cautious approach. Warnock had far too much to say for himself, as usual, and had to be spoken to by the referee.

With about ten minutes left in the first half Kenny handled the ball just outside the area. With everyone expecting a red card, United were relieved to see referee Hegley produce a yellow. Warnock must have been very relieved as it is his policy not to have a 'keeper on the bench. My initial feeling was that he should have gone but there was a covering defender and it could be argued the offence had not prevented Reading from scoring. Nine times out of ten in those situations the 'keeper would be off. The incident seemed to distract both teams and half time came with little else to trouble either defence.

Little, who was not having the best of games was replaced by Oster after injuring his elbow. This reduced Reading's attacking options and United enjoyed a lot of possession. As the half wore on United looked more likely to create a winning goal, but it was not to be. Baradji came on for a tired Convey, and Obinna replaced Lita who had turned in another fairly anonymous appearance. With ten minutes to go Warnock's blood pressure soared again as Gillespie burst into the area and collided with Harper but the referee dismissed appeals for a penalty. It was Reading that took the initiative in the final ten minutes, and as all good sides often do, they conjured up a winner in the closing minutes.

Baradji, who had shown some nice touches, sent in a cross to the near post where Gunnarsson glanced a header inside the far post. Three sides of the stadium erupted as a mountain of Royals players piled on top of their Icelandic team mate. Reading fans were then treated to some excellent possession play by Reading as Warnock hopped around like a scalded cat. At the final whistle United looked totally dejected, which was nice to see, as their manager provided the post match entertainment with an embarrassing tantrum. At his age he really should know better.

So United's run of ten straight wins is over as Reading continued to close the gap. I don't get to many away games, but I would love to see what happens at Bramall Lane in the return fixture - especially if we have the other half of the first team available!


How on earth did we win this game? What a week, what a great week. If anybody had been offered seven points from the last three games you'd have bitten their arm off. After the battering we took at Southampton, forgetting the first ten minutes today, we yet again took another pummelling with the game being almost non stop traffic in the direction of our goal, with the exception of the last couple of minutes and then only like football can do super Iceman Gunnarsson rose like an arctic salmon to head home a priceless winner that left the home fans ecstatic and the Sheff Utd fans stunned. What a moment and who knows how priceless come the end of the season. For me it was poetic justice after the unbelievable decision not to send Kenny their keeper off in the first half for blatant handball outside the box, the ref simply bottled it.
As for the Gillespie penalty claim, maybe it was maybe not, but if he'd not have concentrated on producing a swallow dive after the challenge that an Olympic diver would have been proud off then they may have had a pen, but such deep joy to see twanker Warnock nearly having a heart attack after the game in his gestations and no doubt foul verbal outburst at the referee who to be fair was quite atrocious. Three points it is though and though we played poorly it must be remembered we had five first teamers out and lost the effective Little at half time. If we are winning playing like this then things can only get better when we return to the type of form we showed against Palace. In my humble opinion, we are really missing a creative midfielder and palyers like Shorey and Sidwell are missed too. As for up front Doyle gets better by the game but Lita is proving very disappointing.
As we've often said nobody minds as long as a player gives his all but Lita is lazy and is so easy to knock off the ball and goes down too easy. He needs to pull his socks up and play like a million pound player and not run about like a posing prima donna. He's more like Litter than Lita at the moment but hopefully he'll show what he's capable of in time. Kitson holds the ball up better and looks a better choice with Doyle. Must not forget to mention the centre backs Ingimarsson and Sonko who are really playing well and deserve great credit for their heroic defending as does Hahnemann who's having a great season. The two week break could simply not come at a better time, seven games in three weeks has taken it's toll and hopefully we'll be back to full strength for the Ipswich game. The players all deserve a very well earned break. It's been an amazing start and maybe our league position flatters us a bit but the league never lies, does it?
Nick Newbury

Fans from both sides will remember this game for some idiotic refereeing decisions. Reading Fans should really remember it for the day we beat the league leaders, and at the end we had just four, yes four, of our first eleven on the pitch. This was a victory for spirit and tenacity. Yes, they had more of the play, yes they were physically stronger, but no they did not create. We did not have to rely on Marcus as we did on Wednesday to bring us victory. When you are on top you have to score and they failed to do that. At the start I was concerned that Hunt would find Infill too much. Although the first goal came that way, as the game went on Hunt got better and better and typified everything you would have wanted to see. By that time we were already ahead and it was another Iceman that put us there. We were terrific today in terms of effort and resilience. The defence was superb, Convey continuing as he has done, Doyle worked his socks off. Lisa did not get the service he needs. We have seen him as an outstanding box player. This was not the game for him as we did not get the ball to him in those positions. He has already won us games and will do so in the future. This was a wonderful win for us and the other teams in the division and we had yet another person scoring. I thought Pardew's man looked good as well.
PS If your manager comes onto the pitch to moan at the ref. what chance is there that players will behave? Just compare Coppell talking about Powell on Wednesday with the spoilt brat Warnock. Who would you rather have and who is better for the game?
Ken C

When I read fans comments and listen to certain commentators I often wonder whether they were at the same match! The ITV coverage on Sunday morning was excellent and for my part it was quite brilliant to be at this match. We competed all over the park and the work rate from all our players was excellent. This is the best start that I can recall in many seasons and I would stress it is far from "lucky" but more due to excellent defending and at last goals coming from all over the park as has been acknowledged by Steve Coppell and which must be a great relief to him in view of last seasons reliance mainly upon Dave Kitson. As Steve Coppell commented in the programme Sheffield United are not top of the league through luck or good fortune and we certainly are not second for the same reasons. It is grinding out results away in particular and the ability to "pinch a winner" and sometimes at the "death" that makes the difference between a promotion candidate or not.
I am sure our lads will use the next two weeks to build upon this excellent start of which the whole squad must be congratulated and I am excited by the comments of Graeme Murty in the programme "there is no limit to what can be achieved by this squad". Let us hope that this really is the season we have been waiting for!
Terry, Isle of Wight.

Neither team played well, but we came away with the three points and that's what matters! The ref was appaling, and he didn't have the guts to show Kenny red. In the first ten minutes we controlled the game, the ball was passd well and constent attacks were made on the Sheff Utd goal, but after that we just lost it and sat back. That's how Sheff scored their equaliser. We always seem to do that, after we've scored we just sit back and let the opposition run all over us but credit to the boys they got a winner, eventually! Gunnarsson was brilliant, and so were the goals.
Doyle has had a brilliant start, scoring and creating chances. Lita, on the other hand, started well by getting a few goals but is now just being lazy. In the Sheff Utd game he didn't seem to want to run after the ball. At least Eric Obinna, who replaced Lita, was willing to run after the ball even if, sometimes, he didn't get there. Hahnemann, Sonko and Ingimarsson have been rock solid at the back, and helped us keep many clean sheets this season. Convey and Little have been supplying balls left, right and centre! Harper has been steady through the middle, and of course scored the crucial goal in the Norwich game! Everyone has played their part so far this season. When the injured players are back Coppell should give Doyle a chance with Kits and see how it works out. If we can beat the league leaders with five members of the first team missing what can we achieve with a fully fit squad?
Helen, Woodley

No victory tastes as sweet as beating Sheffield United because you always get Warnock making a complete twat of himself afterwards - worth the entrance fee alone! Lets not give the referee a bad time - he made the game - and lets face it - we'll be taking about his decisions in the pub for the rest of the season!
Brighton Royal

There's been plenty said here about the match, which was certainly edge-of-the-seat stuff in good old-fashioned Reading tradition! I do though disagree with the knee-jerk slagging off of the referee. Ignoring the two "big" decisions of the non-sending off and the non-penalty for the moment, I thought the ref let the game flow remarkably well and for that he should be applauded. It was a physical battle and I can think of many referees we have had at the Madstad who would have killed the game as a spectacle with constant whistling and bookings for petty fouls. As for the decisions that got the headlines, I think most refs would have given both the red card for Kenny and the penalty against Harper. But, he felt that there were reasons why he should give the benefit of the doubt to the perpetrators in each case and was man enough to come out and explain them. The ref should be applauded for this and I'm not sure we can ask much more really. His decisions might have left ardent fans of both sides frustrated but that's the lot of us supporters! When are we not left frustrated by refereeing decisions? And how many of them explain it for us?
Tony, Hook

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