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Michael Taylor 9th Apr 2009 - 15:16

Blades well placed to end Madejski misery

Sheffield United manager Kevin Blackwell was nearly chased out of the city by the Bramall Lane faithful in February but now, just two months later, he is on the brink of being canonized as a Blades God.

After the historical events of February 7 2009 in which Sheffield Wednesday completed their first league double over United since 1904 it has been nothing but good news for Blackwell and, with a victory at Reading on Good Friday, the Blades would find themselves in an automatic promotion spot - for one night at least.

However, while automatic promotion remains the prerogative for the Blades, Kevin Blackwell's toughest task may be finding a way to finally beat the Royals after five seasons and eleven games of Reading dominating the fixture.

There are a lot of signs that this hoodoo could be about to end though; not least the Blades impressive run which has seen them catapult up to third in the Championship.

They also meet their nemesis with the form book on their side as Reading have failed to notch a win on home soil in six league games of which three have been losses, while just one goal in their past four matches must be a big worry for Steve Coppell.

Sheffield United are 21/10 shots to end their wretched streak and register an invaluable three point. Reading, despite disappointing form, are 21/20 favourites for the clash with the draw at 11/5.

The prices suggest it will be close and there is nothing in the build up which offers a difference of opinion.

Both sides have identical records, except United have one more win but have played an extra game, and they cannot even be separated in the Championship outright betting - both are 10/1 chances to usurp faltering Wolves and Birmingham.

What could be the major factor in the game is who wins the midfield battle and that looks to be where the Blades have a slight edge.

It's no coincidence that the Blades fortunes have changed since David Cotterill has been re-introduced into the side while Greg Halford is proving he has the potential to play at a higher level.

Halford is great value at 5/1 to add to his tally of seven for the season and, with the prospect of showing the Madejski what they're missing out on, he will be keener than ever to make a lasting impression.

By no means is it a hopeless cause for the Royals though as it never will be when your team includes the likes of Kevin Doyle, Dave Kitson and Stephen Hunt.

Over recent weeks it hasn't seemed to click but you have to think that with so much at stake it is only a matter of time before the big players step up - and it could easily happen on Friday.

Doyle is an 11/2 shot to score the first of the game and not only is he one of the finest strikers outside of the Premier League but he seems to have the knack of scoring in the big games.

And, even though the Royals have been far from prolific over the past weeks, I fully expect an open game on this occasion.

The Blades have been terrific away from home while Reading carry a potent threat so, with all this in mind, the 12/1 about Sheffield Utd winning 2-1 looks value and 12/1 about a 2-2 draw could also be in with a good shout.

However, the bet that looks most like a banker to me is the 10/11 about more than 2 total match goals - and let us hope this comes true if only for the watching Sky Sports cameras.

It's going to be one hell of a game and whoever wins it won't just be celebrating Good Friday, they'll be celebrating a step towards a Premier League promotion.

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