Welcome to football, Adam Federici. Last season, Reading’s Australian keeper failed to handle being dropped from the side – which he admitted this week was a struggle, when reflecting on Steve Coppell`s decision to recall Marcus Hahnemann in March – and today failed to handle a speculative shot from Sheffield United`s Jamie Ward that cost the Royals their first home loss of the season.
“Maybe I would have saved that one and perhaps things would be different”, the keeper declared regarding his omission during last season`s run-in. What will be haunting his hindsight this evening, as he reflects on a lapse that saw the Blades race on to dispense of Reading 3-1? ‘How did I miss that?`, most likely:
On 62 minutes, Adam Taylor`s throw-in on the left found its way innocuously to Ward. The odd supporter took the insignificant episode to send a text, check a fixture in the programme or look at the scoreboard clock. Federici had clearly been doing something similar, completely unaware of the bulge in the net caused by Ward`s speculative effort from 20 yards.
The Blades supporters had evidently been more attentive, celebrating behind the hapless Australian`s goal like an English slip cordon going up for the dismissal of a bemused Ricky Ponting. But their joy exhibited a sheen of surprise that they had taken a 2-1 lead out of nothing to cancel out Reading`s early lead.
Indeed, it had been the home choirs that were the more jubilant. Their thirst to witness a goal was finally slaked when the Royals` goal drought came to an end. Home debutant Matthew Mills headed Gylfi Sigurdsson`s exquisite free-kick beneath the on-rushing Mark Bunn after 13 minutes.
Sigurdsson and Jay Tabb ensured that Reading were deserving of their lead for the first 30 minutes, forming an axis that pivoted either side of a struggling Nicky Montgomery, whose early efforts to shield his defence were utterly hopeless.
But Montgomery learned to cope with this pair`s threat as he became increasingly physical in his response to Tabb`s forward direction. Matthew Kilgallon and Chris Morgan kept a lid on the ineffective Shane Long and Noel Hunt while, up front, Ched Evans and David Cotterill patrolled the space vacated in front of Mills and Alex Pearce, who fell for the trick of paying too much attention to centre-forward Darius Henderson.
The tactical distraction worked a treat for the Blades two minutes before half-time when Taylor sprayed the ball cross-field to Evans on the right, ready to exploit the pastures left open by Mills and Pearce. The Welsh youngster then fed a low cross behind the centre-backs to Stephen Quinn at the far post, who found the back of an empty net from two yards.
Just as the majority of home supporters were preparing themselves to digest a disappointing 2-1 reverse, Cotterill offered them an extra helping of red-and-white fat to chew on when he evaded the attention of the entire Reading midfield and a backtracking rearguard that prompted him to rifle a shot form 25 yards into the top corner. Federici hadn`t done anything wrong this time, but nothing will prevent him from scratching his head in irritation and self-loathing for his earlier blunder.
His mood will hardly be buoyed when news from the Oval reaches him. Not a good day for Australian sportsmen in England, then.
Adam Federici – 5
No catastrophes of note. Vigilant, observant and watchful stuff from the Australian.
Liam Rosenior – 5
Got forward well. But, irritatingly, rarely with the ball.
Ryan Bertrand – 5
Disappointing to see him give permission to Ched Evans and Jamie Ward to roam around him all game.
Alex Pearce – 6
Strong, committed, serious. But did not attempt to close down David Cotterill when he bagged the Blades’ third late on.
Matthew Mills – 6
A bit panicky on the ball at times, if the truth be told. But he showed once again that he’s not afraid to put his head in where it hurts.
Jem Karacam – 4
A very disappointing afternoon for Jem. Ineffective in a shielding role and offered very little in the way of forward supply.
Kalifa Cisse – 5
Naturally better than Karacam in this role because of his size and strength, but I would like to have seen him release himself a little more. A very rigid, almost statuesque, performance.
Gylfi Sigurdsson – 7
Superb in first half and his crossing was of the highest quality. Created enormous amounts of space for himself and was hungry both on and off the ball.
Jay Tabb – 6
Supplemented the good work done by Sigurdsson but failed to maintain it to the same degree.
Noel Hunt – 4
Shane Long – 4
Let his side down with a clear lack of passion, drive or determination. Rarely seen with the ball.
Scott Davies (Cisse) – 5
The game was already lost by the time he came on and had little effect.
Simon Church (Hunt) – 5
Bullied off the ball as the Blades stifled the area in front of their defence.
Too little, too late. Too Harper.