West Ham 2 Reading 4: A right Royal hammering has Irons looking at playoffs
16:21 GMT, 31 March 2012
Reading took a giant stride towards promotion to the Barclays Premier League as West Ham imploded at Upton Park.
The Hammers, who had drawn their last
five home matches to slip out of the top two, were leading through
Carlton Cole's strike as half-time approached.
Not only that, Sam Allardyce's side
were also putting in comfortably their best performance in front of
their own fans this season.
On their knees: Noel Hunt celebrates Reading's second goal to leave West Ham on their knees
WEST HAM: Green, Faubert, Tomkins, Faye, McCartney, Nolan, Noble (Collins 46), O'Neil, Vaz Te, Cole (Maynard 72), Taylor (Baldock 60). Unused subs: Carew, Lansbury.
Goals: Cole 8, Vaz Te 77
READING: Federici, Cummings, Pearce, Gorkss, Harte, Kebe (Afobe 82), Karacan (Tabb 55, Robson-Kanu 67), Leigertwood, McAnuff, Hunt, Roberts. Unused subs: McCarthy, Church.
Goals: Gorkss 44, Hunt 45, Harte (pen 59), Leigertwood 84.
Referee: Chris Foy
But, the match, and possibly West Ham's entire campaign, turned in the space of two minutes.
Totally against the run of play, Kaspars Gorkss equalised from a corner in the 44th minute and then, in first-half stoppage time, Noel Hunt fired Reading into an unlikely lead.
In the second half Ian Harte added a third from the penalty spot and, although Ricardo Vaz Te pulled one back, any hopes of a comeback were extinguished by Mikele Leigertwood's disputed fourth six minutes from time.
After booing their recent bore draws, the West Ham fans at least got the entertainment they craved, but their side now appear destined for the play-offs.
Yet it had all looked so different after seven minutes when Cole fired the Hammers ahead.
Bubble's burst: Sam Alladyce looks on in frustraion
Kevin Nolan's neat footwork sent Matt
Taylor away down the left and the United skipper arrived in the area to
meet the return ball with a firm downward header which hit the foot of
Adam Federici's post.
The ball fell to the feet of Cole who
took a touch before thumping it past the grounded Federici for his 10th
goal of the season, and his first in 10 games.
Reading should have equalised in the 23rd minute but Hunt's fierce drive from eight yards out was headed clear by James Tomkins.
However, the hosts seemed well in control and Vaz Te headed straight at Federici before firing over from close range.
On the slide: Mark Noble challenges Reading's Jobi McAnuff
But, instead of pushing home their
advantage, West Ham promptly fell to pieces by conceding a soft leveller
a minute before half-time.
Harte swung in a routine corner but defender Gorkss got in ahead of the flat-footed Nolan to head in at the near post.
And the hosts were stunned in
first-half stoppage time when Julien Faubert's challenge on Jason
Roberts served only to present the ball to Hunt, who made no mistake
with a low drive past Rob Green from 12 yards.
Things got worse for West Ham 12
minutes into the second half when Hunt tumbled over Abdoulaye Faye's
challenge in the area and referee Chris Foy pointed to the spot,
allowing Harte to step up and convert the penalty.
With 15 minutes left Vaz Te's towering header from Gary O'Neil's corner threatened a home fightback.
But instead Leigertwood rammed home
the fourth despite Hunt being well offside when the ball clipped his
heels and bounced to the midfielder.
West Ham's luck was well and truly out – and their hopes of automatic promotion have been severely dented.