Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder revealed he used a “few harsh words” during his half-time team talk to inspire his side to a 2-0 Championship win at Reading.
The Blades struggled to break down lowly Reading but a late header from Billy Sharp and a Sam Baldock own goal eventually secured the points.
“It was a great win for us but I wasn’t too pleased with the first-half performance,” Wilder said. “We kept them at arm’s length but we were not anywhere near where our usual standards are.
“So I made a little change at half-time and had a few harsh words with the players.
“We were away from home and we had no divine right just to turn up. I just wasn’t happy with our general overall display. But I thought that we came roaring back in the second half and were much better.
“We dictated the game and I think it was the right result in the end.
“We had a couple of goals disallowed, which were the correct decisions, but we kept knocking on the door.
“I always thought that there was a win there for us and if there wasn’t, it wasn’t for the want of trying. We drove the game forward and I’ve got nothing but praise for my players.”
United had two goals chalked off for offside in a dour first period in which neither team impressed.
Reading then proved stubborn opposition after the interval and United were indebted to top scorer Sharp, who came on as a second-half substitute to nod in his 12th goal of the season in the 83rd minute.
Three minutes later, Reading striker Baldock headed into his own net from a John Fleck corner.
The Royals sacked manager Paul Clement on Thursday, with Scott Marshall, the club’s under-23 boss, installed as first-team caretaker boss.
And Marshall said: “I’m disappointed with the two late goals. It’s a sore one to take.
“We struggled to cope with the little change that United made at half-time. They put a lot more pressure on us, they were a lot more in our face.
“It was also disappointing to concede in the manner that we did. We had opportunities to pass and play and link up a little bit but we’d liked to have worked their goalkeeper a little bit more.
“We did have chances but we didn’t capitalise on them.
“Straight after the game, it was good to be around our group of players, look into their eyes and maybe set a challenge to them. They looked quite positive and up for that. So there are some encouraging signs.
“I’m looking forward to working with them over the next few days.”
On the managerial vacancy at Reading, Marshall said: “It’s definitely been a whirlwind 48 hours at the club.
“It’s disappointing that things haven’t worked out for Paul [Clement] and the change has been made.
“Emotionally it’s quite a challenge, especially from my point of view and the group’s point of view as well. We’ve just got to manage that altogether and battle on through for however long it is.
“The main thing is that we have to generate a bit of spirit and a bit of togetherness – a will to see things through.”