Wednesday, February 15, 2006

COLIN III: THE RECKONING Sheffield United 1-1 Reading

Foul-mouthed Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock to all intents and purposes accused Bobby Convey of cheating to win an injury time penalty for Reading yesterday evening as the Blades boss saw his side dominate for long periods yet still fail to make any inroads on our twelve point lead over them at the head of the Championship table.

Floyd on Football did not have a great view of the incident at the end of the game when Convey was apparently flattened by lardy Blades keeper chasing the loose ball after Kenny had blocked the American's initital effort after latching on to a hopeful long ball. However, having spoken to one or two people with a better sight of happenings, the common consensus was stonewall penalty which would make Warnock's thinly veiled post-match comments all the more spiteful. Warnock accused Convey of the heinous crime of smiling at him after the incident - Floyd on Football would venture the opinion that opponents are keen to rile Warnockbecause of his shananigans and the way in which he conducts himself, so he only has himself to blame.

Frantic, fast moving, white knuckle stuff at times. And that was just the journey up to Brammall Lane. Despite having left in plenty of time, Floyd on Football was stranded in the Sheffield traffic ten minutes before the scheduled kick-off time and it was a mad dash to the Gordon Lamb stand lower tier which was packed with Reading supporters. Despite having missed the opening exchanges, Floyd on Football was seated and on hand to see the Blades open the scoring inside ten minutes. United were pushing Reading back and getting the ball wide with great ease and it was from the right flank that Bromby fed the pugnacious Akinbiyi who turned and was challenged only for the ball to squirm through to DYER to score via the inside of Hahnemann's post. A disastrous start, but Floyd on Football was not unduly worried by the concession of an early goal given the bouncebackability of this Reading side - in recent weeks after all we have seen the team hit back swiftly after conceding the first goal at Derby, West Bromwich and Crystal Palace.

Bounceback we did. Within three minutes the dangerous Convey, following good work by Murty, fed the ball into the six yard box. Beyond Doyle, the ball fell to KITSON who simply doesn't miss that kind of chance. The Blades, aware that the chasing pack are on their tails like a pack of baying blood hounds, were bitten and spurred into life. Akinbiyi shot wide and there was an almighty escape as a Sonko clearance which hinted at handball fell for Craig Short who was denied on the line by Murty's timeliness. Tonge was denied at full stretch by Hahnemann and the rebound fell kindly for Akinbiyi, whose physical approach to the game continually went unpunished all evening by referee Halsey, and were it not for the awareness of the Reading keeper recovering to throw himself at the ball it would surely have been 2-1. The Blades big money forward, one of Warnock's ever growing arsenal of strikers, thumped over the bar and Reading escaped again.

United were on top, playing with all the desperate determination of a convict on the run. However it was Reading who almost stole a haf time lead - first Little and then Convey cut in, only to be denied by the unwitting Kitson and the agile Kenny respectively. Reading had hit back strongly in the closing stages of the first half with some pretty and effective football with both wingers playing their usual full part. United may have dominated on chances and possession but Reading's game play fully illustrated in the mind of Floyd on Football quite why we are top and the Blades a distant second. We started the second period on top as well; Sidwell plunged to head Convey's corner kick dramatically towards goal only to be denied by the girth of Kenny on the goal line. Reading were looking quite comfortable at this stage.

Football, however, as we all know can change like the mood of a paranoid scizophrenic in an instant. For the final half hour of this tense, important game Reading became scrappy in their play, careless in possession and gifted Sheffield United the set pieces which their game thrives upon. In this exultant season thus far there have been frankly precious few nervous moments for the supporters of the best team in the Championship to endure. However, in the final third of this game Floyd on Football, with a bloodstained right hand injured in the post-equaliser celebrations, bit anxiously upon nails along with the other 1,600+ loyal Reading supporters as Montgomery firstly volleyed a corner over the bar and then headed home a freekick when offside, Jagielka was denied by Murty and the woodwork following a melee and Kabba fired straight at Hahnemann when an offside flag didn't arrive following another cutting Blades free kick delivery.

Each of these near misses was greeted by a huge cheer from the travelling contingent at the other end of the ground and there was an explosion of joyous noise as Convey was pole-axed for the penalty right in front of us. Up stepped Kitson for the moment which would have put Reading 15 clear at the top, with Floyd on Football's camera phone poised to record a famous moment for posterity. Dramatically, Kenny was plunging to his left as Kitson struck the ball and the fat shot-stopper had guessed the right way to make a terrific save. The United supporters roared with delight but as the final whistle sounded moments later their joy was shortlived, especially as Leeds United closed the gap between themselves and the Blades to 9 points with a victory over Watford. Even without Kitson scoring that penalty, Reading are cruising to the title. Warnock may have real cause to grumble if his side keep failing to win games.

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Ingimarsson, Sonko, Little, Sidwell, Harper, Convey, Doyle, Kitson. Subs not used: Stack, Makin, Oster, Long, Hunt.

Floyd's Favourite: Ingimarsson. Timely return to his best form.


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