Sheffield United 2 Reading 0: Coutts inspires Blades to victory

Billy Sharp of Sheffield Utd has the header saved (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage)
Billy Sharp of Sheffield Utd has the header saved (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage)
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BACK from a ban and back with a bang. That was Blades midfield man Paul Coutts at Bramall Lane.

Coutts turned from schemer to scorer and captain Billy Sharp netted his fifth of the campaign before the break.

That was enough to see off last season’s Championship play-off finalists and keep the Blades firmly in the promotion picture even though Roy Beerens tapped home from Modou Barrow’s low cross in the 85th minute as the hosts sat back too deeply.

Wing-back George Baldock and Coutts returned for the Blades in place of Kieron Freeman and John Lundstram and Reading also made two changes from the side which had won at Leeds, Barrow and Tyler Blackett replacing Jon Bodvarsson and Garath McCleary.

Coutts scored a cracking first goal of the season in the 19th minute, curling the ball into the roof of the net from outside the area after it had been poked away from Leon Clarke following the striker’s smart turn in the area.

Further Blades pressure was rewarded when Sharp tapped in at the far post from Mark Duffy’s low cross following a reverse pass from Baldock to make it 2-0 in the 37th minute.

Neither side made changes at the break but it was almost 3-0 as Sharp met Duffy’s whipped in free-kick but Vito Mannone blocked the shot and his defenders prevented Jack O’Connell forcing home the rebound.

Reading had a couple of players booked for fouls, including Paul McShane within two minutes of his introduction.

Duffy received a standing ovation for his stint when he was replaced by David Brooks in the 72nd minute.

Reading mounted a spell of pressure and Beerens struck to make it a nervous finale, though Clarke failed to net after a one-on-one at the other end.

Verdict: Another high-energy performance from the Blades, who were taught a lesson not to switch off until the final whistle after outplaying Jaap Stam’s men for much of the game as well as forcing one of the division’s more composed sides into error after error.