Reading back on track
Reading ended a difficult week off the pitch by battling back to secure a 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest on Saturday. The Royals were behind inside the opening five minutes at the Madjeski Stadium but new signing Andy Carroll played a role in the build-up to the Royals' second-half equaliser from Scott Dann to earn a deserved share of the spoils.
The hosts were thankful for captain Liam Moore's late block on the line to preserve a point but Veljko Paunovic's side were good value for the draw, landing six on-target attempts and enjoying 58% of the ball. The result ended a run of back-to-back home defeats and keeps the club two points above the drop-zone following their six point deduction.
Speaking post-match, Paunovic said: "It's not the result we wanted or are satisfied with, but at the end of the day, it's another point and a little bit of terrain recovered. I'm happy with the overall performance of the team. We showed we're going to fight and give our best, and put in performances like this, be committed and have a fantastic spirit to push on again."
Sheffield United fail to fire
Sheffield United boss Slavisa Jokanovic admitted his Blades team were "flat" and "nervous" during their disappointing goalless draw at home to Coventry on Saturday, playing without enough quality in the first 45 minutes to deserve anything more than a draw. The hosts managed just two shots on-target and forced a solitary corner in a forgettable fixture.
Jokanovic made four changes for the return of the Championship following the international break, with his side down in 17th as the game kicked off. However, the Blades were booed off by some supporters as the half-time whistle sounded having failed to produce a single effort of note. United did belatedly raise their game yet still fell well short on expectations.
A frustrated Jokanovic said, "We didn't play the first 45 minutes very well, we didn't show enough quality. The second 45 minutes we played better, we created more chances and I felt we deserved more in this part of the game. But we needed to do it from the start. We were too nervous and weren't comfortable. We cannot be satisfied with this result."
Reading have not enjoyed recent head-to-head meetings with Sheffield United in the league, picking up just one point from a possible 27 going back to 2008 (W0-D1-L8). The Royals have lost each of their last five home fixtures against the Blades at the Madjeski Stadium, conceding multiple goals in the past four such match-ups.
Reading 3.6013/5 have posted W7-D2-L9 across their first 18 encounters this term. However, my ratings suggest the Royals have significantly overperformed, ranking inside the bottom-three for Expected Points (xP) having lost the Non-Penalty Expected Goals (npxG) count on 14 occasions already. Veljko Paunovic's outfit have at least returned W4-D2-L3 at home.
Sat amongst the leading pack in the ante-post promotion markets, Sheffield United 2.206/5 have failed to meet expectations since relegation. The Blades have earned top honours just five times with four of their victories arriving against the current bottom-four. The visitors head to Berkshire with just two league triumphs in their last nine outings (W2-D2-L5).
Matches at the Madjeski Stadium have largely been low-scoring affairs. Only two of Reading's eight encounters here have produced Over 2.5 Goals 1.845/6 profit with 2.13 goals per-game on average. Sheffield United's road trips have seen 2.67 goals on average yet four of the Blades' nine away days have paid out for Under 1.5 Goals backers.
But a more intriguing trend to jump onboard arrives in the half-time market where United have been level at the interval in a huge 14 of their opening 18 fixtures. On their travels, Slavisa Jokanovic's team have gone into the break with the scores tied in six of nine games and so backing a repeat stands out at 2.001/1 via the Betfair Sportsbook.