Premier League: West Ham 4 Reading 2
By Football News
A hat-trick from captain Kevin Nolan inspired West Ham to a 4-2 victory over Reading to secure a top-half finish on Sunday.
Nolan opened the scoring in the first half and Ricardo Vaz Te doubled the hosts' advantage before the interval.
Reading mounted a spirited second-half turnaround with two goals in as many minutes from Garath McCleary and Adam Le Fondre.
But Nolan wrapped up all three points for West Ham by scoring two further goals late on to complete his hat-trick.
George McCartney was the only absentee for Sam Allardyce's men, while Jimmy Kebe and Jason Roberts were sidelined for Nigel Adkins’ Reading.
Defensive frailties have plagued Reading all season, with a number of soft goals contributing to their premature relegation to the Championship.
That was highlighted once more as Nolan took advantage of a mix-up in the Reading defence to open the scoring after 23 minutes.
Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, a recent call-up to the England squad, fired a poor clearance into the back of Andy Carroll, who then set up Nolan for the easiest of finishes.
Vaz Te doubled West Ham's lead in the 34th minute following great build-up play from Mohamed Diame and his strike partner Carroll.
Diame found the on-loan Liverpool striker at the far post with a cross from the left which Carroll chested down before turning and setting up Vaz Te to guide the ball past McCarthy.
The home side then enjoyed a sustained period of pressure towards the back end of the first half with Diame and Joe Cole taking efforts from distance.
Adkins brought on Le Fondre and Nick Blackman at half-time in a bid to find a way back into the game and the substitutions inspired Reading to mount a surging comeback.
Having enjoyed more of the possession and territory after the break, goals from McCleary and Le Fondre within the space of two minutes turned the match on its head.
McCleary pulled one back in the 53rd minute with a strike from outside the box, taking a huge deflection off Mark Noble to wrong-foot Jussi Jaaskelainen in the West Ham goal.
The substitutes then combined as Le Fondre equalised for Adkins' men after good play from Blackman down the left-hand side, finding Le Fondre at the far post to slide the ball home.
The goals rocked West Ham, who initially looked very comfortable, but Nolan scored his second and West Ham's third in the 79th minute to restore their lead.
Another lapse in concentration from Reading's defenders meant Nolan was able to simply guide the ball into the bottom corner past McCarthy.
Nolan netted his third to make it 4-2 with a close-range header following a right-wing cross from Modibo Maiga, who found Nolan unmarked in the centre of the box.
West Ham end the season in 10th place, while Reading have to now plan for life in the Championship.