Reading 0 West Ham United 3

Saturday, 1st September 2007
by Jacob Steinberg

Reading were never in more danger of conceding in this game than when they were in West Hamís half. Foolish as that may sound, they consistently left themselves open to the swift counter attacks of the away side- and the acres of space were eagerly capitalised upon by Matthew Etherington and Craig Bellamy.

West Ham's New Year's Day hangover was compounded by a 6-0 drubbing here last season, but any thoughts of a repeat were fanciful. Reading's support may have taken delight in reminding their visitors of that but it was merely mild recompense for what unfolded on the pitch. Really that scoreline could have been repeated in West Ham's favour and perhaps should have been.

It was just as the ground was filled with chants of "6-0" that the Hammers struck early on. Lee Bowyer won possession off Brynyar Gunnarson in the middle of the park and fed Bellamy, who had moved vitally away from Ivar Ingimarsson. From just outside the area, the Welsh striker's low drive into the far corner was too good for Marcus Hahnemman. In Bellamy, West Ham could have a new hero to putt their faith in.

Reading were rocked by that setback and seemed unsure how to haul themselves back into the game. With referee Howard Webb unwilling to recognise Leroy Lita's somewhat wobbly legs, they struggled to build any momentum. Despite nine corners in the opening period, they struggled to pierce the West Ham defence.Their best chance arrived midway through the half, Kevin Doyle knocking the ball down and Stephen Hunt measuring a precise shot on to the top of the bar.

It was not long after the restart before West Ham doubled their lead. From an unsuccessful Reading corner, Etherington led the charge upfield. He found Hayden Mullins on the right side who played it back to the left winger. From there, he exchanged a quick one-two with Bellamy and faced with Hahnemman, his finish into the top corner was unerring. The speed and economy of football was quite brilliant to watch.

More goals should have followed. Ashton and Bellamy combined to play in Bowyer, whose placed shot lacked the necessary accuracy. Carlton Cole sent Etherington haring away but, perhaps stuck in two minds, the finish was weak and Hahnemman gathered. Then Cole was through, only to strike too near Hahnemman again- he would not have appreciated the sieve-like nature of those in front of him.

Would West Ham pay for their profligacy? One goal would certainly have lifted Reading's spirits and when Robert Green upended Dave Kitson in the area, it seemed they might get it. But given the chance to redeem himself, Green read Kevin Doyle's intentions, diving the right way to keep out his penalty and that really was time for the home side.

West Ham have long pursued Reading left-back Nicky Shorey- unsuccessfully. But in stoppage time, Cole released Etherington on the counter attack again. This time he gave Hahnemman no chance. As his shot whistled into the far corner, Shorey slumped to the floor. The West Ham fans had chanted "You should have joined West Ham" all game. He was probably thinking the same thing.

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Player Ratings

Robert Green
A comfortable game mostly for Green. He relieved pressure during aerial onslaughts and made up for his foul by saving Doyle's penalty.

Lucas Neill
Poor against Bristol Rovers, he was a strong presence yesterday. Adds a bit of nastiness to the side- but he can defend as well.

George McCartney
Desperate to show there was no need for a new left-back, he defended well and attacked with ambition.

Anton Ferdinand
Imperious. He was woeful in last year's 6-0 and scored an own goal. No chance of that yesterday. Lita was in his back pocket.

Matthew Upson
Rarely troubled on the ground, but Doyle is not an easy striker to contend with. Upson thrived on the challenge.

Hayden Mullins
In the absence of Parker and Dyer, he's been given a chance to make his mark. A bustling display suggests he's getting back to his best.

Mark Noble
Not eye-catching but endeavoured to ensure Reading stamped no authority and his passing was quietly effective.

Lee Bowyer
Followed up last week's goal with a decent, industrious performance. Missed a sitter but set up Bellamy's goal well.

Matthew Etherington
Well. Fantastic. Two great goals, took the full-back on, full of running. Even got a knock and got up straight away.

Craig Bellamy
I was initially unsure but this has won me over. Pace in abundance and got what he needed- service. Good finish and a good assist for Etherington's first.

Dean Ashton
His first start and understandably rusty. But he was better than Zamora and we need that. Looks like he can build an intelligent and dangerous partnership with Bellamy. Booked for doing up his shoe laces, the ingrate. Needs match fitness.


Carlton Cole
(replaced Ashton, 64) On for Ashton, he was average- which is a compliment. It got to his head a bit and he tried a backheel to Etherington. It was interesting.

Jonathan Spector
(replaced Bowyer, 81) Play him in the hole, we'll reap the benefits.

Luis Boa Morte
(replaced Bellamy, 90) On too late to make any impression.

Richard Wright
Did not play.

Danny Gabbidon
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, Matthew Upson, Hayden Mullins, Mark Noble, Lee Bowyer, Matthew Etherington, Craig Bellamy, Dean Ashton.

Goals: Craig Bellamy 6 Matthew Etherington 48 Matthew Etherington 90              .

Booked: Robert Green 55          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Ingimarsson, Duberry, Fae, Harper, Gunnarson, Hunt, Lita, Doyle.

Subs not used: Federici, Bikey.

Goals: .

Booked: None booked..

Sent off: None.

Referee: H.Webb.

Attendance: 23,533.

Man of the Match: Craig Bellamy.