Sheffield United 4-0 Reading: Gary Madine double as Blades go second
Kieran Freeman, John Fleck also on target
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 17/02/19 8:12pm
Sheffield United moved up to second in the Sky Bet Championship with a ruthless 4-0 victory at home to struggling Reading.
Kieron Freeman's goal after 38 seconds set the tone for what was an authoritative display from Chris Wilder's side, who climb above Leeds on goal difference, albeit having played a game more.
United soon made it two when Gary Madine scored his first goal for the club, before the Cardiff loan signing lashed a second after 44 minutes.
John Fleck's deflected strike after 49 minutes added further lustre to a scoreline which was an accurate reflection of a one-sided encounter.
Wilder had in the build-up described this fixture as the "biggest game of the season" for Sheffield United and his players seemed of a similar mindset as they took the lead within a heartbeat of kick-off.
Enda Stevens found Mark Duffy on the left flank and his precise delivery across the face of the Reading six-yard box eluded everyone but Freeman, who scrambled the ball home.
Reading remain outside the relegation zone on goal difference but might have travelled to South Yorkshire with a degree of optimism following their midweek defeat of Blackburn.
They failed to regroup from the horror start, though, and duly conceded a second after 16 minutes.
Emiliano Martinez's short pass surprised Liam Kelly and when Fleck intervened, the ricochet fell kindly to Madine, who thumped the ball into the roof of the net.
Further evidence that it was not Reading's day arrived soon after, when the injured Kelly was replaced by John Swift.
Despite the change, Reading briefly threatened to get into the game but Madine scored a second, meeting Johnson's ball in with a fine first-time drive that was much too powerful for Martinez.
Reading's besieged goalkeeper could then do nothing about Sheffield United's fourth when Fleck's left-footed attempt from distance took a deflection en route to goal.
The Blades would have made it 5-0 after 80 minutes had Martinez not expertly tipped over Hogan's crafty lob from 11 yards.
Reading at least had a shot on target when Lewis Baker's curling strike from 19 yards was parried for a corner by Dean Henderson late on but the result was long sealed and the Blades even had the luxury of leaving top scorer Billy Sharp on the bench.
Chris Wilder: "The easy call was to keep the same team. I had to make the right call. I feared a slow game and a tired game. It was important we had an energetic performance, what with the way they play. I wanted us to play a little more forward - Gary (Madine) and Scott (Hogan) allowed us to do that.
"Gary's been first class in terms of his attitude. He showed real character wanting to come here and do well for us. He's added to a real good group of players. I thought his finishing was excellent."
Jose Manuel Gomes: "I'm disappointed. We didn't get any points and I'm disappointed with the way we played.
"We conceded a goal in the first minute and we gave all the space to Sheffield to play. They were able to take advantage of the small mistakes we made. They are very strong and they showed why they are fighting for different targets to us."