A Kevin Nolan treble inspired West Ham to a 4-2 victory over Reading at Upton Park to seal a top half finish in the Premier League.
Andy Carroll charged down a poor Alex McCarthy clearance to set up Nolan’s opener and Ricardo Vaz Te fired in a low shot from the edge of the box to give the Hammers a two-goal lead at the break.
But Reading vastly improved and scored two in as many minutes when Gareth McCleary’s scored via a wicked deflection before the two half-time substitutes, Nick Blackman and Adam Le Fondre, combined with the latter tapping home.
The game then opened out as both teams sought a winner and it was the hosts who found it when Nolan beat the Reading offside trap to slot past McCarthy.
The West Ham captain then sealed his hat-trick late on when he headed home Modibo Maiga’s cross.
Upton Park had an end of season feel about it with both sets of supporters in good spirits. The Royals’ contingent had bought a fine set of inflatables as they looked to enjoy their final match in the Premier League until at least August 2014 and their side started brightly, creating the first opening.
Jobi McAnuff burst down the right and delivered a perfect cross onto the head of Pavel Pogrebnyak but the striker’s effort lacked power allowing Jaaskelainen to save down to his left.
It was to prove a costly miss for Reading as on the half hour the hosts took the lead.
McCarthy had plenty of options available to him when he received a back pass but his clearance cannoned against a lingering Carroll, the striker laying the ball off to Nolan who couldn’t miss with the goal gaping.
The keeper went some way to making amends for his mistake when he produced an outstanding save to tip Nolan’s header onto the underside of the bar as the Hammers started to dominate.
The inevitable second goal arrived shortly after when Mohamed Diame’s over hit cross found its way to Carroll and the striker grabbed his second assist when he knocked the ball back to Vaz Te who fired into the bottom corner.
Reading were all over the place, desperately hoping referee Mike Dean would blow his half-time whistle early, and nearly fell further behind when Vaz Te weaved his way along the penalty area before crashing a shot against the bar.
Anyone who thought the game would descend into a rout were proved wrong as Reading flew out the blocks in the second half and scored two early goals.
First Jobi McAnuff jinked inside on the left to tee up the approaching McCleary whose shot took a wicked deflection to beat Jaaskelainen.
And they levelled soon after when their two half-time substitutes combined as Blackman played in a teasing ball across goal for Le Fondre to tuck home from six yards.
McCarthy managed to keep out strikes from Joe Cole and Carroll as West Ham looked to reassert themselves on the match but he could do nothing to prevent their third goal when Nolan beat the offside trap and slid home.
Despite pressing for an equaliser, Reading struggled to create any more chances and conceded again when Nolan ghosted between their backline to head home Maiga’s cross for his hat-trick.
The win sealed 10th place in the Premier League for the Hammers, an impressive result for a club only promoted from the Championship 12 months ago.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Kevin Nolan: Close between him and Carroll, but Nolan’s hat-trick ultimately won the game for the Hammers in what was a top-drawer performance.
West Ham: Jaaskelainen 6, Demel 6, O'Brien 5, Collins 5, Reid 6, Diame 6, Nolan 9, Noble 6, Vaz Te 7, Cole 6, Carroll 8. Subs: Taylor N/A, Collison 6, Maiga 7.
Reading: McCarthy 4, Gunter 5, Kelly 5, Gorkss 4, Morrison 5, Karacan 6, Guthrie 5, McCleary 6, Robson-Kanu 5, McAnuff 6, Pogrebnyak 5. Subs: Le Fondre 7, Blackman 7.
- Sports & Recreation
- Kevin Nolan
- Andy Carroll
- Ricardo Vaz Te
- Nick Blackman