West Ham United 1 Reading 1
Wednesday, 26th December 2007
by Jacob Steinberg
Christmas is a time to surround yourself with familiar surroundings and friendly faces, not an occasion to travel away from home. Just try telling that to West Ham though. Perched in ninth place now, which is a far cry from last year's relegation struggle, they are fluent on their travels yet invariably stutter at Upton Park, to the increasing agitation of their supporters.If Scott Parker's last minute winner at Middelsbrough on the weekend was the feast, then this was the cold turkey. Against a Reading side who played with ten men for an hour, were a goal down at half time, but still managed to come away with a point thanks to Dave Kitson's equaliser on the hour, West Ham were creatively listless. That has become a recurring theme here.
Reading enjoyed the better of the opening half hour, carving out two early presentable chances for Kevin Doyle and Bobby Convey. Both were denied by smart stops by Robert Green, while at the other end, Nolberto Solano curled a free kick just wide and Dean Ashton made a mess of Carlton Cole's header.
Then, a moment of madness. Two footed tackles are all the vogue at the moment, and Brynyar Gunnarson became the latest to join the club when he leapt at Hayden Mullins. There was perhaps no malicious intent, but Peter Walton was right to reach for his red card.
That changed the complexion of the game, Upton Park demanding a goal and Reading to adopt a more conservative approach. Ashon went close, directing a volley over, yet the opener soon arrived. On 42 minutes, Cole appeared to have made a mess of a move just outside the area, yet his gangly persistence allowed Solano to break past Nicky Shorey and dink the ball over the advancing Marcus Hahnemann.
Reading, with two points from eight away games, might have been expected to crumble after that. Not so. West Ham began the second half in complacently laidback fashion and that, coupled with Reading's admirable willingness to attack, meant an equaliser seemed likely.
Sure enough Kitson soon grabbed it. West Ham failed to properly clear their lines from a corner, and when Shorey's disguised chip completey fooled the home defence, the pass found the ginger striker in acres of space and he hooked home.
Naturally the home side attacked, desperate to appease a furious home crowd and to regain their advantage. They lacked confidence and composure though, and the frantically scrappy nature of the game was what Reading wanted.
Still, they rode their luck at times. Jonathan Spector headed against the post and Freddie Ljungberg and Parker both had efforts saved by Hahneman after cutting in from the left. Then in stoppage time, Ashton nodded Mark Noble's corner against the woodwork and Reading had survived the storm. For West Ham, it was the same old home truths. Manchester United are the visitors on Saturday - it may get worse before it gets better.
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Player RatingsRobert Green
He made a couple of decent stops early on, but was perhaps guilty of a bit of indecision with defenders.
A mixed bag defensively, though he was involved in the build up to Solano's goal.
He appears to be more troubled when Ljungberg is in front of him, as he is almost expected to patrol the left flank alone.
A jittery performance mostly and Kitson often got the better of him.
As a defender he is hard to beat thanks to his anticipation, but the long punts up field can become frustrating.
He doesn't tend to have bad games so much- it's just that at home, when the onus is attack, he struggles to live up to expectations.
Following on from his goal on Saturday, this was another pleasingly all action performance which probably should have brought him another goal.
A touch of class for his goal, yet it is tiresome to see him constantly withdrawn in the second half. He selfishly takes the team's creative spark with him.
He could have scored when it was 1-1 but missed. Sadly it is hard to see exactly what else he brings to the party. Could there be more effort?
He was indeed a goal threat and could have had a hat-trick on another day. However he still looks a tad heavy- will the fans' patience last. A few whispered rumours that he is a sulky presence and it will do him no favours. Something of an enigma.
He did well to retrieve the situation for the goal, but was otherwise let down by a poor first touch.
(replaced Cole, 72) Poor, again.
(replaced Solano, 77) One dangerous corner aside, he did little when he came on.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Jonathan Spector, Matthew Upson, Hayden Mullins, Scott Parker, Nobby Solano, Freddie Ljungberg, Dean Ashton, Carlton Cole.
Goals: Nobby Solano 42 .
Booked: Robert Green 45 Carlton Cole 65 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Gunnarsson, Hunt, Harper, Convey, Doyle, Kitson.
Subs not used: Cisse (Convey 66), Long (Kitson 85), Bikey (Doyle 92).
Goals: Kitson (60).
Booked: Hunt (46), Shorey (67).
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Scott Parker.