MICKY Adams’ search for his first win as Sheffield United manager continues after this nervous draw at Bramall Lane.
Adams cut a frustrated figure on the touchline as United produced another display high on industry but low on invention against a Reading side also desperately short of class.
Debutant Bjorn Helge Riise showcased some promising touches after appearing as a late substitute, but his efforts appeared to have been in vain when Shane Long opened the scoring with just nine minutes remaining.
However, as a previously dour match finally exploded into life, Daniel Bogdanovic secured what could yet turn out to be a precious point in United’s battle for survival when he snatched an 87th-minute equaliser from the penalty spot.
United, though, were still indebted to Steve Simonsen for denying Long a stoppage-time winner with a superb reaction save.
The Blades remain in the relegation zone but enter Saturday’s crucial encounter with fellow strugglers Crystal Palace knowing a victory would lift them above their London rivals.
Plenty of water has passed under the bridge since these two teams blazed a trail through the Championship but time has not been kind to either.
United, whose priority is now clawing themselves out of the bottom three, huffed and puffed but created little against opponents who, barring the excellent Jimmy Kebe, also bore little resemblance to the side which joined their hosts in the Premier League five years ago.
Adams used his programme notes to insist that United’s disappointing sequence of results has not damaged his self-belief.
The same, however, can not be said for his squad and the arrival of Fulham’s Helge Riise and Sam Vokes on loan just hours before this match was designed to repair their fragile confidence.
Riise, younger brother of former Liverpool star John-Arne, started on the bench as Adams preferred Lee Williamson in the midfield role left by injured Nick Montgomery.
Vokes, though, did start. The Wales international, whose goals helped Wolverhampton Wanderers reach the Premier League two years ago, lined up alongside Richard Cresswell in a revamped attack as Adams looked to exploit a Reading defence which started the evening having kept just one clean sheet in its last eight matches on the road.
United have also experienced difficulties at the back of late and their fragility at set-pieces was quickly in evidence when Ivar Ingimarsson forced a superb reflex block from Simonsen after meeting Brian Howard’s centre.
United’s goalkeeper was beaten moments later when Jobi McAnuff flung himself at Kebe’s cross but the foot of the post came to his rescue.
The Frenchman, whose pace and positional sense have attracted admiring glances from the Premier League, continued to pose a threat. But, as the half progressed, United established a foothold in the contest with Mark Yeates twice going close.
Vokes, who created his new colleague’s best chance of the evening with a sweeping cross-field ball, came close to getting a touch on Elian Parrino’s cross but - a penalty appeal against Andy Griffin apart - the tide continued to ebb in Reading’s favour.
Simonsen excelled himself again when he darted beyond the confines of his area to rob Kebe of possession before referee Trevor Kettle waved away Stephen Quinn’s claims that his shot had been handled.
McAnuff opened the second period with a long-range effort but neither Adams, who withdrew the tormented Stephen Jordan at half-time, nor his counterpart, Brian McDermott, will have been satisfied with the quality on show.
As the final whisle approached Long held off Matthew Lowton to claim his 15th goal of the campaign before Bogdanovic rammed home from the spot after being tripped by Griffin.
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Simonsen 8, Jordan 5 (Lowton 46, 6), Ertl 6, Doyle 6, Yeates 7 (Bogdanovic 66, 6), Williamson 6, Cresswell 6, Vokes 6 (Riise 66, 6), Collins 7, Quinn 6, Parrino 6. Not used: Nosworthy, Bogdanovic, G Long, Slew, Bent.
READING: Federici 6, Griffin 6, Mills 6, Gunnarsson 6 (Antonio 70, 5), Tabb 6 (Manset 78), S Long 7, McAnuff 7, Kebe 7, Ingimarsson 7, Howard 6, Harte 6. Not used: Hunt, Khizanishvili, Robson-Kanu, Armstrong, McCarthy.
Goals: Long (81), Bogdanovic (87).
Referee: T Kettle (Lincolnshire) 6.
Bookings: Jordan (32), Gunnarsson (55).