Sheffield United: Manager Chris Wilder relieved calculated gamble to rest Billy Sharp pays off as Gary Madine scores twice in 4-0 win over Reading

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Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, was relieved his calculated gamble paid off as his side beat Reading 4-0 to go second in the Championship.

Wilder’s men were in clinical form as they took apart Reading without the services of Sharp, the league’s leading goalscorer.

Gary Madine stepped up with a brace, his first goals for the club since arriving on loan from Cardiff City, sandwiched between efforts from Kieron Freeman and John Fleck.

Freeman scored just 38 seconds into the game after replacing the injured George Baldock and Wilder joked: "You lot [the media] would have been after me if that had gone wrong wouldn’t you?

“But you have to pick the right team and we felt that was the right team to go with.

"I feared a slow game and a tired game. It was important we had an energetic performance, what with the way they play.

Chris Wilder

Chris Wilder

"They are a possession-based team and we had to commit to that threat, so I wanted us to play a little more forward - Gary and Scott Hogan allowed us to do that.

"The easy call was to keep the same team. I had to make the right call."

Wilder was also pleased with the display of Madine, adding: "Gary's been first class in terms of his attitude. He's done nothing wrong, as far as I'm concerned.

"He showed real character wanting to come here and do well for us. He's added to a real good group of players. I thought his finishing was excellent.

"Getting off to an unbelievable start was great for us. We looked a threat going forward and we had a good shape behind.

"The Championship is ruthless and relentless and we've managed to come through a tough week in decent nick.

"If we can nail the home form that would be great, and a statement we're doing well. It was a good afternoon, which we'll enjoy."

Reading, who had gone four matches unbeaten, were always up against it after such conceding so early and rarely threatened to make a game of it.

And they hardly helped their cause with a first-half defensive horror show - most notably when Madine made it 2-0 after 16 minutes.