SHEFFIELD United manager Danny Wilson hopes to sign a new striker after receiving assurances from Kevin McCabe that funds will be placed at his disposal before Thursday transfer deadline.
McCabe, the visitors’ owner and major benefactor, made the pledge ahead of this FA Cup tie which saw Reading end their involvement in the competition at the fourth round stage.
With the future of Nick Blackman shrouded in doubt following confirmation that Crystal Palace are prepared to pay in excess of £1 million to acquire his services, identifying a goalscorer capable of reinvigorating United’s season is Wilson’s top priority as the scramble for Championship football enters a critical phase.
McCabe, who watched from the directors’ box as Noel Hunt’s brace helped their Premier League opponents take another step towards Wembley, said: “We are looking to strengthen no matter what. It’s important people recognise that.
“Recruitment policy is even more complicated than ever because of rules we have never been subject to before. You look to bring people in but you’ve also got to leave enough room to act in an emergency situation as we saw with our goalkeepers not so long ago.
“But the fact is those rules are there and we must abide by them.”
“Nevertheless,” McCabe added. “That does not stop us from doing whatever we can to improve.
“Equally, it’s simply not the case that Nick has been touted around. Yes, as everyone knows, there is interest. But we can’t stop people showing that. It’s impossible.”
With League One clubs now governed by financial legislation which prohibits them from spending more than 65 per cent of turnover on players, McCabe’s insistence that United will do “everything within their power” to bolster Wilson’s options irrespective of “whether anyone leaves,” suggests the businessman and his family are set to inject a fresh dose of funding into Bramall Lane’s coffers.
After a match settled by Reading’s superior finishing - Mikele Leigertwood and Garath McCleary joined Hunt on the scoresheet - it was impossible to disagree with Wilson’s claim that a prolific attack is the common denominator shared by all successful teams.
United, who spurned several opportunities to ensure the final result more accurately reflected their contribution, have compiled a list of targets the former Northern Ireland international believes can furnish them with a sharper cutting edge.
Wilson has gone on record to profess his admiration for Leicester City’s Jeffrey Schlupp, although a more experienced option could be preferable.
“Goals are of paramount importance,” Wilson said. “They are what make the difference and will get us to where we want to be.
“So a striker is the priority. That goes without saying.”
Sixth in the table ahead of Friday’s meeting with Coventry City, arguably the most significant moment of this contest from United’s perspective came when defender Neill Collins returned to action following a serious facial injury.
Wearing a mask to protect the cheekbone he fractured during Boxing Day’s victory over Scunthorpe, Collins’ presence
should restore some assurance to a back four breached 12 times in his absence.
“Neill’s leadership qualities have been missed as much as anything,” Wilson said. “He was badgering me all week saying that he was ready to play.
“That, coupled with the fact he’s way ahead of schedule, is a measure of the man.
“If it was up to him he’d probably have been involved even sooner but, while we wanted him in there as quickly as possible, we also have a duty of care.
“Neill is ready to be involved but it (the bone) still hasn’t completely healed.”
Hunt scored the first of his two efforts after escaping United’s clutches and meeting Hal Robson-Kanu’s cross.
Having got to grips with the midfielder’s pace, United forged several openings of their own before Leigertwood’s long-range effort doubled Reading’s advantage.
Blackman, who is understood to also count Brian McDermott as an admirer, impressed Wilson’s counterpart with some intricate skills during the early exchanges, Tony McMahon saw a free-kick deflected to safety and Chris Porter glanced Jamie Murphy’s centre wide.
Adam Federici produced a smart block to deny Murphy who later saw a shot cleared off the line after Hunt and McCleary had rubber-stamped Reading’s progress.
“The chances we created was pleasing,” Wilson said. “Against a top-flight team we created just as many as they did.
“What disappointed me, though, was the manner of the goals we conceded. We should have done better with those because, certainly when the second went in, we were getting back into the match.
“We had our opportunities but Reading put their ones away.”