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Championship
Saturday, 31st March 2012

West Ham United 2
Reading 4

by Gordon Thrower


Seeing as I’m currently laid low with a dose of some sort of flu this is going to be something of a back to basics report. I feel lousy enough without having to put together thousands of words to describe how rough I was feeling at the time anyway so, with very little ceremony here we go:

Team

Green, Faubert, McCartney, Tomkins, Faye, Noble, Taylor, O’Neil, Nolan, Vaz Te, Cole.

Early Stages

Some superb football from us. The Reading “fans” were silent, though, having seen it on the tv once they did bring a flag. I say flag, it was more the size of a beach towel and the “passing it amongst the fans” idea soon died a death. Probably of embarrassment.

We dominated and took the lead on 8 minutes. Good work on the left saw (I think) Taylor put in a near-post cross for Nolan to head towards goal. The effort came back off the post to Cole who cleverly made room for himself before putting his shot away from six yards. Much confusion amongst the Reading fans who presumed that the goal had been disallowed because there is no music.

Middle of the half

We continued to dominate. If there’s something that is anti noise that’s what the visiting support were making. Vaz Te went close at the near post, his effort being diverted for a corner. Ref Foy somehow disagreed blaming some sort of anti-matter type force field for the diversion from goal. This became a recurring theme with the officials. It is something of a myth that the Select Group are there because they are the best we have – something that Foy proved time and time again. Roberts somehow escaped a red card for a nasty elbow into Faye’s ribs. Hunt escaped a yellow for constant dissent to both referee and linesmen.

Reading’s fans woke up a little when, much against the run of play, they had their first proper chance. Tomkins was superbly placed to head away from a yard or two in front of the line.

The end of the half

We conceded two goals. McAnuff handled an attempted flick from Noble from which a corner resulted. Foy does his job we don’t concede. He didn’t. We did. Harte’s corner found the virtually unchallenged Gorkss who equalised. Reading fans paused and waited for their music. Eventually they realised that being at a proper club there would be none so they started to celebrate just in case.

So, in a game in which we’d been so far the better side it was an embarrassment, we somehow managed to concede again. Faubert’s attempted clearance found Hunt who put the ball away from 10 yards. If 1-1 had flattered Reading, their lead was simply a travesty. Not that would have occurred to the visiting support who, bless them, thought that they’d won the European Cup.

Half Time: West Ham United 1 Reading 2


The Second Half

Mark Noble had picked up a thigh problem. The natural choice on the bench would have been Lansbury. Unfortunately the Manager disagreed with this point of view and brought on Collins at the interval with a view to moving Tomkins into midfield. This disrupted the momentum dreadfully – Tomkins has never seemed comfortable in the role.

On the hour the match took a totally unrealistic look as the ball fell into the box at the feet of Faye. Faye’s first touch was unusually poor and he stuck out a leg. Hunt made a Lambert-esque major detour to go down over the outstretched leg and Foy bought it. Harte stuck away the penalty.

On came Baldock for Taylor which, to me, seemed to be having a player replace the player who might supply him with the ball. Maynard replaced Cole who had worked his socks off. We continued to push forward. Tomkins forced a corner. The linesman disagreed despite the deflection being obvious for all to see. Tomkins complained. Tomkins was cautioned. Tomkins should have given the name “Hunt” when challenged just to see if the ref might have twigged.

Eventually we forced a corner that even Foy couldn’t fail to give. O’Neil took and Vaz Te’s header into the corner was superb. So 2-3 and unless the officials did something really silly, the comeback was on.

The officials did something really silly.

A ball played into the box found a Reading player somewhere between one and three yards offside. That was “at the time the ball was played”. The ball hit the player on the back of the heel and Leighterwood buried the rebound. The linesman looked around vacantly as if there was something that he should have been doing but he couldn’t quite remember what it was. Eventually he twigged but, presumably thinking that he’d get away with it if he just kept quiet, he continued to do nothing. Foy refused to trust his own eyes – something that few could blame him for on this performance – and incredibly allowed the goal to stand, thus killing off any chance of a comeback.

Reading players were going down like flies every time they lost the ball, a time-wasting tactic that became so obvious that we eventually stopped bothering to put the ball out. Foy added six minutes in acknowledgement of the constant playacting, though strangely he forgot to caution anyone. Apart from Faubert for a pretty harmless challenge on Robson-Kanu of course.

We crated chances towards the end but it was all rather too little too late and our visitors had an undeserved three points. The Reading supporters, who seem to be under the misapprehension that their nickname is “the Royals” rather than “The Biscuitmen” celebrated their cup final shock much in the manner you’d expect before heading off to try to get served alcopops somewhere. We were just fed up that we’d lost to such an average team by handing them the points on a plate like some sort of charitable donation.

There’s a long way to go of course and the season will hang on how we deal with this setback. Noble’s thigh will cause concern – two weeks is the word on the street. However, if match fitness can be assured the returns of the likes of Demel, Diop and Reid might serve to freshen up things a bit.

Now where’s that Nurofen Cold & Flu packet?



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Might have done a bit better with the 4th but it was offside anyway. A bit of fielding practice aside little else to do.


Julien Faubert
I prefer him to play further forward – this game showed why. Culpable for the second and his miss might have led to an earlier equaliser when Tomkins saved the day.


George McCartney
By and large he kept the loathsome Kebe reasonably quiet – he was reduced to falling over at every opportunity.


James Tomkins
Difficult one to mark this. Outstanding first 45 but he’s a fish out of water in midfield and it showed. Even if, as is rumoured, the boss doesn’t rate Lansbury surely he’d have been a better bet when Noble left?


Abdoulaye Faye
Given a hard time by Foy who offered little protection from Roberts’ elbows. If his first touch had been better his leg wouldn’t have been out there for Hunt to fall over.


Mark Noble
Had a fine first half but sadly his injury was to prove our downfall – either directly or indirectly.


Kevin Nolan
Some good work in the first half and his fine header led to the goal. Less involved in the second half.


Gary O Neil
With Noble he bossed the first half. Found it a bit more difficult to do so in the second half when having to do it on his own.


Matt Taylor
Some decent corners but was denied the chance to supply chances to Baldock by his being replaced by Baldock.


Ricardo Vaz Te
Came into the game more and more as the game wore on. Splendid header for the goal that gave us some brief hope. MOTM – just.


Carlton Cole
Decent run out before being taken off. Worked incredibly hard and should have had a second half penalty when having the shirt pulled off his back at a corner. Took the goal well which seemed to give him a confidence boost.


Substitutes


Danny Collins
(Replaced Noble, 46)
Struggled to get the pace of the game. Strangely preferred to Lansbury when Noble pulled up lame.


Sam Baldock
(Replaced Taylor)
Ran around a lot to little effect.


Nicky Maynard
(Replaced Cole)
Ran around a lot to similar effect to Baldock.


Stephen Henderson
Did not play.


Sam Baldock
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Chris Foy.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Ricardo Vaz Te.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Julien Faubert, George McCartney, James Tomkins, Abdoulaye Faye, Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan, Gary O Neil, Matt Taylor, Ricardo Vaz Te, Carlton Cole.

Goals: Carlton Cole 8 Ricardo Vaz Te 78                .

Booked: n/a           .

Sent off: None.

Reading

.

Substitutes: .

Subs not used: .

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Ricardo Vaz Te