JAAP Stam admitted Reading FC were 'shocking' in defence against Sheffield United and urged his players to 'be more aggressive'.

Royals shipped three goals at home for the second time in four days after a dismal display by Stam's men.

A brace from former loan strike Billy Sharp - the second one controversial - plus a Mark Duffy belter secured the win that sent Blades into the top six.

Omar Richards had pulled it back to 2-1 with his second goal in a week, but Leandro Bacuna's penalty was saved by United sub keeper Simon Moore moments before Sharp made it 3-1.

Stam admitted: "We're not strong or decisive enough, we need to be more aggressive at times.

"You talk about it and show it, but it still happens. Sometimes it's difficult to know what it is.

"As a defender you need to know the opposition will play these long balls so you need to win them, head it away or not make stupid fouls."

He added: "I don't know what more to say. You explain what to do and you expect players of a certain age and education to know what's necessary.

"When confidence is high things are easier, I understand that. But we need to do the basic things.

"We've talked many times about this and how we concede goals. I find it shocking at times."

Sharp, who had a brief loan spell with Reading from Southampton in 2013/14, caused the hosts problems all night.

He lost his maker to convert Leon Clarke's cross for an 11th minute opener, then Duffy beat Vito Mannone at his near post with a 20-yard piledriver on the stroke of half time.

Reading, who were almost anonymous until then, improved after the break, Richards replying on 51 minutes from a tight angle for his second in three games.

But Bacuna's penalty miss just after the hour kept United ahead and Sharp made it 3-1 in the 63rd minute after the visitors attacked when Reading expected the ball to be returned.

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Jon Dadi Bodvarsson battles with Sheffield United's Enda Stevens.

Stam continued: "Defending is a team process. I don't just mean defenders, as a team we need to be more decisive.

"We played much better in the second half than the first. We ran around a lot more and found space. But conceding a third goal like that was very disappointing.

"If it's 2-1 and even if we miss a penalty, there is still an opportunity to equalise.

"Also the opposition are in a different mindset at 2-1 than at 3-1. They will want to defend that and maybe sit deeper, so with the extra striker Sam Smith in there we could have maybe scored that equaliser."

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Reading fall behind against Sheffield United.

Sharp's second and most important goal of the night was hotly disputed.

Chris Gunter had left the ball run out of play as Royals teammate Liam Moore looked injured.

But United attacked from the throw-in when Reading expected the ball to be returned, with Sharp applying a cool finish for 3-1.

Stam, though, refused to blame the United players.

"Vito threw the ball out and Chris let it go because Liam Moore was on the ground," he recalled.

"Chris showed that he let it go over the line and we probably expected to have it back from Sheffield.

"They decided to keep playing. Maybe Liam stood up, I don't know, and they scored the third goal which, I think, you still need to defend."

When asked whether he thought his own players would have returned possession to Sheffield, Stam stated: "Yes, but maybe that's the problem in the way we think. Maybe we are too easy-going and too soft in giving balls back.

"We need to be more decisive so we don't concede goals."

This was Reading's 16th Championship defeat of the campaign. Luckily, they remain 18th in the table and four points above the relegation zone, but with a trip to leaders Wolves to come this Saturday (3pm).

Reading Chronicle:

Garath McCleary goes down with an ankle injury in the second minute of Tuesday's 3-1 defeat to Sheffield United.