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Reading 3-0 West Ham – A famous day for the Royals

As Simon Church gleefully flicked Ian Harte’s tempting, viciously bending free kick into the West Ham net, the Madejski stadium erupted in delirious, uncontrollable joy. This carefully controlled header made it 3-0 to Reading with a few minutes left on the clock, and put paid to any faint hopes West Ham might have had of mounting an improbable comeback.

The first half had been a tight and tense affair, with both defences well-marshalled by experienced players; Abdoulaye Faye controlling matters at the back for the Hammers, and Kaspars Gorkss doing the same for Reading. Despite the midfield duo of Nolan and Papa Bouba Diop calmly controlling possession for West Ham, they had only created the one good chance so far. A corner deep to the back post was nodded back in to the danger area and there was Diop, flicking a foot out to nudge it goalwards. Only the knee of Noel Hunt on the line kept the game goalless.

Reading also fashioned a few openings, but did not manage to exert Rob Green in the visitors goal. Their closest moment came when Jem Karacan steered a stooping header inches wide of the far post on the stroke of half time.

After the break, the home side began to impose their style of play on the game and were soon setting the tempo; Noel Hunt got in down the left-hand channel but his tame shot did not trouble Green, then Ian Harte fizzed a free kick just past the post, with the keeper motionless. Then, just past the hour mark, came perhaps the pivotal moment in the game; the sending off of Joey O’Brien for two eminently bookable offences. First, he entered into a needless scuffle with Hunt after an innocuous challenge, then he scythed down McAnuff after the winger had surged past him.

And immediately West Ham were left to rue his dismissal. From the resulting free kick, McAnuff was given the freedom of the penalty box to get to the byline, and from there kept a cool head to pick out Alex Peace in the middle. The tall central defender smashed home powerfully, and Reading had what was a just-about-deserved lead. This led to around 10 minutes of rampant Reading attacks, which could and should have been rewarded with a 2nd goal; Simon Church (only on the pitch a matter of seconds) lashed a shot just wide from deep inside the penalty area when he really should have hit the target. But his time was fast approaching.

After another quick break by the Royals involving the impressive Kebe and Le Fondre, the latter floated a delightful chipped cross to the back post, completely taking Green out of the equation. Steaming in came Church, happily accepting the invitation and heading a tap-in on his 23rd birthday. And there was more to come. After passing up several more presentable chances Reading began to play keep-ball, to the delight of the home crowd. Eventually, the ball was passed to Kebe on the right wing, with no Hammers players near him. He paused for a moment, and then proceeded to reach down and pull his socks up, and action which seemed to enrage the nearest West Ham player, midfielder Jack Collison.

The latter subsequently decided to launch himself feet first into Kebe, also shoving him to the floor in a sort of combined rugby/slide tackle. Needless to say, this earned him a red card and West Ham were now down to nine. The debate will rage on as to whether Kebe was provoking West Ham or merely taking advantage of a lull in the game-but either way Collision undoubtedly deserved his punishment.

And the misery was compounded for the east London side from the resulting free-kick, when Church turned his 23rd birthday from a very good one into brilliant one with that assured finish. It was the icing on the cake for Reading, and put the seal on an afternoon that will live long in the memory of all Royals fans.

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