SHEFFIELD United manager Micky Adams paid tribute to Darius Henderson after a two-goal salvo from the much-maligned striker kept the South Yorkshire club’s slender hopes of Championship survival alive.
Henderson, who was goaded by large sections of the United crowd during last weekend’s victory over Bristol City, was instrumental in sparking the fight-back which stunned promotion chasing Reading at the Madejski Stadium yesterday.
Adams’ side appeared to be heading for defeat when Noel Hunt and Hal Robson Kanu fired the hosts into an early lead.
But Henderson’s brace, coupled with Lee Williamson’s effort on the stroke of half-time, ensured United remain six points adrift of safety with two games remaining.
“Darius has been a big, big miss for us,” said Adams. “I think that goes without saying.
“He was absolutely tremendous out there.
“I know he’s been copping a fair bit of flak.
“I don’t know why. You’ll have to ask the people who have been dishing it out.
“But he’s looked after the young lad (Jordan Slew) alongside him really, really well over the past couple of games and I’m pleased to see him get his reward for that.”
United, who return to action against Barnsley on Saturday, climbed to 22nd in the table .
But, crucially, they have an inferior goal difference to the teams directly above them in the table.
Adams added: “It looks an impossible task but all we can do is try and make sure we win that one because, if we don’t, then it’s an irrelevance anyway isn’t it?
“I’m sure Barnsley will be desperate to do us a big, big favour because they’ll want to keep the local derby next season - not!
“They’ll be desperate to put one over on us and we’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“With what they’ve done out there, I’m proud of the boys. They showed guts and character.”
Brian McDermott, the Reading manager, acknowledged: “Credit to Sheffield United. They deserved it.
“I thought they showed they were ready to play for their manager and it’s clear there are some very good young players there.
“Their future, despite what it might look like, is going to be bright I’m sure.
“They deserved their win today. I’ve no problems with that.”