MATCH REPORT: 2006/2007 Season

1 January 2007: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: Gunnarsson (12 mins), Hunt (15 mins), Ferdinand (30 mins, own goal), Doyle (36 mins, 78 mins), Lita (53 mins).
West Ham United: -
Half Time: 4-0
Attendance: 24,073

Pos Team P Pts GD
8 Everton 22 31 +6
9 READING 22 30 0
10 Man City 22 29 -6
Reading: Hahnemann, Gunnarsson, Ingimarsson, Sonko (Bikey 54), Shorey, Little (Oster 54), Sidwell, Harper (Ki-Hyeon 71), Hunt, Doyle, Lita. Subs Not Used: Federici, Long.
West Ham United: Green, Dailly, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky, Bowyer (Newton 19), Reo-Coker, Mullins, Benayoun (Cole 78), Harewood (Spector 46), Zamora. Subs Not Used: Carroll, Tevez.
Reading: Harper
West Ham United: -
Ref: L Mason (Lancashire).
Reading followed up two excellent away performances at Chelsea and Manchester United, and ended a six game winless run in style by thrashing West Ham United 6-0 at the Madejski Stadium. The Premiership's biggest win of the season was Reading's biggest win for many, many years and was thoroughly deserved as the Royals looked a class above the visitors. The impressive scoreline was in fact the result of a typical Reading performance. As usual we chased down every ball and never stopped looking for more goals. Regardless of the scoreline we stuck to the gameplan and looked dangerous every single time we attacked. It could have been an even bigger win with Green making some saves and Oster hitting the side netting three times after coming on in the second half. We also played the last ten minutes with ten men after Gunnarsson limped off with all our substitutes used up.

This was a crunch game for Reading, after picking up just two points from the last six games. We needed to win this to retain our position in the top half of the table. A West Ham win would have seen them move to within six points of the Royals - but instead we finished the afternoon twelve points clear of the bottom three. An excellent afternoon's work. Yet, the early signs didn't suggest we were going to provide such a convincing victory. West Ham seemed up for the game in the opening ten minutes and probably had the better of the play in some lively early exchanges. The first attempts on goal came from the visitors with a couple of efforts that failed to find the target. It looked dangerous but in fact it was an indication of what was to come - Reading were clinical in their finishing while West Ham struggled to complete the job up front.

After West Ham's promising start it must have been a cruel blow to them to effectively find themselves beaten after just fifteen minutes. Perhaps even against the run of play Reading went ahead on twelve minutes when Shorey floated in a perfect free kick from the edge of the area. It was a repeat of Sonko's goal at Manchester United as this time Gunnarsson rose to head home and send Reading on their way. Three minutes later it was 2-0. Sidwell was played in on the right and he crossed to Hunt who found himself totally unmarked at the far post. Hunt made no mistake. All West Ham's early efforts quickly faded into distant memory as from that point onwards it was all one-way traffic as Reading dominated the game. It was three on the half hour mark when Shorey played the ball into the area and Ferdinand positioned himself in front of his keeper to head the ball into the back of the net.

Now it was simply a question of how many as Reading flooded forward looking dangerous with every attack. West Ham could only attempt to keep the score down. Every forward move from West Ham broke down with a bad ball or a misplaced shot, while Reading were playing fast flowing football with passes sailing all around the pitch and landing at feet. We were playing excellent football and West Ham could only watch. Except most their supporter chose not to as they made their way for the exits a long time before Doyle made it 4-0 ten minutes before half time. Man of the match Shorey, weaved his way past four or five players on a long distance run that created the goal. He ended his run with a simple ball to Harper in the area who set up Doyle to finish off the move. A Premiership goal of the highest quality.

West Ham went on damage limitation after half time, switching to a more defensive formation and removing Harewood from their forward line. It made little difference as Reading looked like they could score at will. The fifth came from a Sidwell cross that saw Lita hit the ball under the keeper from close range. The ball just squirmed under his body but Lita was already peeling away to celebrate his third goal in as many games. There was a worry for Reading when Sonko appeared to leave the pitch as Reading made a double substitution with Oster and Bikey joining the action. Oster immediately introduced a new danger that the Hammers couldn't deal with and he was unlucky not to find himself on the score sheet after cutting into the box and firing just wide of the near post.

Lita and Doyle both forced saves out of the keeper as Reading looked to extend their lead still further. On 78 minutes Nicky Shorey came down to take a corner from the North East corner of the ground and was greeted by huge chants of "Shorey for England". He responded with the perfect corner for Doyle to head home his second goal of the afternoon and complete the scoring at 6-0. The few remaining West Ham fans responded with an impressive conga around the away end and wild celebrations when they won a corner in the dying minutes. Reading fans all stood up to applaud Steve Coppell as the best Reading side in the history of the club completed another famous victory.

Following report by John Wells:
Reading's run of six games without a win was ended with an outstanding performance and a remarkable six nil thrashing of struggling West Ham. As a contest it was all over inside half an hour when Ferdinand deflected a Shorey corner into his own net to give the Royals a three goal lead. It certainly convinced hundreds of Hammers fans it was time to head for the exit. No doubt the media will assess the significance of this result in the context of a poor West Ham performance. Regardless of what is said or written, nobody can deny that Reading passed the ball well and finished superbly this afternoon.

It was clear from the opening minutes Reading were full of confidence following their recent good performances at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford. The passing was quick and incisive, and throughout the team players looked eager to receive the ball get forward at every opportunity. After eight minutes Bowyer had a chance to open the scoring but seemed to lose his balance at the crucial moment. It was not to be his day. He was substituted soon after landing awkwardly.

The rout began after only twelve minutes. Against Everton, Reading's crosses and corners were extremely poor. Today, with Shorey taking the corners instead of Little, and most of the free kicks, it was the quality of delivery which was the most significant factor in West Ham's demolition. Gunnarsson met Shorey's excellent ball into the box with a firm header past Green. The crowd had hardly settled back in their seats before Little put Sidwell away down the right and his cross was met at the far post by Hunt for his first Premiership goal. He was unmarked but the ball took a long time to come down and he had plenty of time to think about where to place it - which is not always an advantage! Reading swarmed all over a stunned Hammers defence and it was no surprise when a superbly whipped in corner from Shorey was deflected past Green for number three.

On the break Reading looked likely to score every time they attacked. I was not surprised to hear Little admit, in his post match interview, to being weary throughout as there were several occasions when he spurned good opportunities to attack the space in front of him, opting to make long passes instead. It would have been even worse for the Hammers if he had a bit more running in his legs. The fourth goal was a masterpiece of individual skill and teamwork. Shorey weaved his way through the centre of West Ham's midfield beating several players before releasing Harper on the right. Harper's cross was low and perfectly placed for Doyle to finish. Lita was also close behind just in case he didn't reach it.

Reading picked up where they left off in the second half. Number five was created by Doyle's determination in retaining possession in spite of an illegal challenge before slipping the ball to Sidwell steaming in from the right. Another low a perfectly weighted cross and Lita was able to poke it past Green. The ball tricked over the line but he deserved his goal having been subjected to a string of fouls from Gabbidon which the referee was apparently unable to see. A tired Little and a limping Sonko went off shortly afterwards to be replaced by Bikey and Oster. Sidwell found Oster with a superb cross field pass and had he shown a bit more confidence and determination might have scored. Not that it mattered because Shorey whipped in another great corner with just over ten minutes left for Doyle to glance past Green to make it six. Doyle was only denied a hat trick by an earlier excellent save by Green. The score did not flatter Reading.

With all the substitutes used, Gunnarsson injured himself in making a clearance and Reading played out the closing stages with ten men. The West Ham fans who did show sufficient loyalty to stay to the bitter end retained their sense of humour but eventually turned on their own team with chants of 'You're not fit to wear the shirts'.

In contrast, it was joy to watch Reading play today. The passing was so much better than in their last two home games and Doyle and Lita lapped it up making the most of sharp early passes to feet. It was a day of good performances all round. Gunnarsson filled well at right back, Sidwell and Harper controlled the midfield and supported the forwards. As for Shorey - he just gets better with every game.


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