17 August 1996 (League Match)
READING 1 Sheffield United 0
Att: 11,081

Team: Mihaylov, Booty, Bodin, Bernal, Hunter, Wdowczyk, Williams, Caskey, Quinn, Lovell, Gooding. Subs: Nogan, Gilkes, Parkie.

A brilliant way to start the new season. It was great to be back at Elm Park with the dodgy PA system, the dodgy burgers, but thankfully not a dodgy new look team. The Royals lined up in their smart new kit in the amazing heat and kicked off to the away end in front of a huge home crowd.

The match got under way swiftly and it was United who were the first to come forward in the first few minutes immediately testing Bobby Mihaylov with a telling cross. But Bobby came well and collected nicely. What a bargain Bobby was for 300,000 quid in todays market. That seemed to be it for United, they obviously knew out Bobby is unbeatable. Reading then took the initative for a while until the game slowed down for the remaining part of the first half.

A number of times Williams won the ball in space in the center of the field with just one or two men in front of him and every time he just ran straight into the nearest defender. They didn't even have to move. I counted four times. Not the most effective game for Williams. Twice Archie was in space and a simple ball could have created a chance but Williams wasted them.

Reading attempted to make a few chance but never looked like scoring in the first half although they were definately the more determined of two not-really-that-determined sides. Archie played in a great cross from the right but no-one was there to meet it. Sir Jimmy instead thought he'd wander around a bit on the left wing and generally get in the way. He won a free kick from the cross instead which Caskey fired somewhere into the box.

Archie, I thought, was having a good game, getting forward well. But the support wasn't there. Why was Quinn playing left wing?? With about 30 minutes gone Sheffield United thought they'd scored. Hahahaha!! Offside!! (phew!) Reading immediately replied with a Dazza Caskey effort from just outside the box. The ball curving in the direction of the corner flag, but *almost* on target. Getting towards half time the two managers linked together with Gooding playing a nice ball to erm..., the left wing, where Quinn played a deft touch to Bodin scorching down the left and onto the ball. Bodin then fell over but you can't deny what a great run it was.

Then with just over 45 minutes played: our best chance of the match as Archie broke away. 3 Royals shirts against 2. Then the ref blows up for half time. Bastard. So at half time, Sheffield United doing very little, Reading marginally better: attempting to go forward but just not direct enough. In defence however Reading looked tight. Booty playing excellently down the right, Bodin looking sharp down the left and in the middle Hunter looks a good replacement for Williams - showing his power in the center.

The second half started at an amazing pace. You could sense Reading had realized that Sheffield United hadn't come for the win and were more than capable of all 3 points and they went for it. On the right wing Booty's run resulted in a cross swinging in for Archie's head. The header dropped just wide of the left post. The closest to scoring. Yep, this is more like it, we're looking dangerous at last. Then a few minutes later Bodin played a great cross, but Sir Jimmy's header went into orbit over the crossbar. Sheffield United responsed but Bobby was equal to it all - once playing around with the ball and a United players head to great effect on the edge of the box.

Then Archie broke through but was judged offside. Marginal. Things look up even more with the top substitution of Gilkes on for Williams. Gilkes immediately looked impressive and far more likely to produce something. Booty tried a long shot - over the bar.

Then the wrong sub? Hmmm, Archie goes off and on comes Nogs. At the time I was a bit dubious of this one but of course Sir Jim knew what he was doing. Parkie also came on to replace Caskey, and suprise, suprise, got a yellow card for a reckless tackle 10 minutes later!

Then the real turning point in the game. A United player is clean through running straight on goal - the only man to stop him is Andy Bernal. Skippy takes the man's legs out a treat. Red card for Skippy, (equaling the club total for red cards last league season!) and free kick on the edge of the area. The free kick is blasted into the wall and Reading survive. Nice one Skippy. Instead of panicing with the 10 man disadvantage Reading start to really play their socks off! It's all Reading!

With 8 minutes left on the clock Reading grab the winner. Gooding won the ball forward and played a great ball to Bodin running down the left. Bodin took it in his stride, took it down the left and played in one of the sexiest crosses you'll see for a while onto Quinn's head in the middle. Sir Jims not going to miss one of those and the ball flew into the back of the net. The South Bank errupts! Sheffield United hit the bar in the dying minutes but it's a fair result. A game of two halfs which really came together in the second.

The new signings look great. Hunter had a good game, Bodin had an amazing game. Gooding was all determination again (but not his best game), Archie was creating space up front. Booty had an excellent game as did Mihaylov between the sticks. Williams was, well, shite really. Nogs is still out of form. But overall a good Reading performance and a wicked 3 points - 3 more than either Oxford or Swindle could manage!

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