Sheffield United 4, Reading 0: James Shield’s Big Match Talking Points

The Star’s Sheffield United writer identifies some of the key themes to emerge from today’s game at Bramall Lane.

Saturday, 16th February 2019, 4:18 pm
Updated Saturday, 16th February 2019, 4:22 pm
The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield

The Right Response

Kieron Freeman has been out in the cold since his part in last month's FA Cup defeat by Barnet, with the wing-back's performance seemingly angering Chris Wilder to such an extent that he was even banished from the bench. But Freeman made the most of his reprieve, prompted by an injury to George Baldock, by scoring after 38 seconds following a driving run to meet Mark Duffy's cross. That is the type of desire the manager wants to see from his players.? Unfortunately, he later departed injured.?

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Gary Madine Goal Machine

The on-loan centre-forward has impressed with both his physical power and technical prowess since arriving from Cardiff City last month. So the goals he scored against the visitors from Berkshire were deserved. It was the first time Madine had found the back of the net since January 2018, when he was on target for Bolton Wanderers against Ipswich Town. But Madine has not looked like a striker who, until he profited from John Fleck's excellent work, had gone 24 matches without hitting the target.

Paul Coutts Comes On

With Oliver Norwood staring suspension in the face, it made perfect sense to introduce Coutts during the closing stages. After all, he could be required to start a game sooner rather than later having spent much of the season on the bench, with United's coaching staff now seemingly viewing him as being in direct competition with the Northern Ireland international rather than a potential midfield partner.

Norwood on the Brink

Surely one of the best signings United have made in recent years, the midfielder is among the first name's on Wilder's team sheet. But for a player whose strength is his passing, Norwood collects a worryingly high number of cautions. The one he received before the break against Reading means he is now just a yellow card away from an automatic two match suspension. If that comes against West Bromwich Albion next weekend, Norwood will miss the derby against Sheffield Wednesday.