Date: 31st March 2012 at 5:11pm
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A superb performance from Reading saw them defeat West Ham 4-2 and extended the gap between themselves and the Hammers to four points.

Reading manager Brian McDermott received an early boost in the build-up to this game, as key striker Jason Roberts was passed fit despite a recent hamstring problem and replaced Benik Afobe in an otherwise unchanged XI that beat Blackpool 3-1 last week.

It was an end to end start at the beginning of a crucial promotion encounter at Upton Park but it was the Hammers who took the early advantage. Kevin Nolan`s shot rebounded off the post very kindly to striker Carlton Cole who smashed home to give West Ham a key lead.

Reading struggled to get a hold of the ball at a very atmospheric Upton Park following the goal but started to come into the game on the 20 minute mark. Karacan`s ball down the line was picked up by Jimmy Kebe who crossed for Noel Hunt but delayed in getting his shot away and it was blocked by a Hammers defender Tomkins.

West Ham responded to it by creating an attack themselves as Harte didn`t clear well enough, allowing Vaz Te to drive into the box but Cole couldn`t make enough contact on his cross. A decent break and a goalmouth scramble almost doubled the advantage but the Royals survived.

The Hammers didn`t seem keen on sitting on their lead. They surged forward again on 35 minutes, as a dangerous Matty Taylor cross was somehow put wide by the lively Ricardo Vaz Te. Jason Robets had a half chance minutes later as his half volley went harmlessly over the bar.

Despite Reading being on the back foot for most of the game, they got an ever so crucial equaliser a minute before half time. A pinpoint Ian Harte corner was nodded home at the near post by defender Kaspars Gorkss to give the Royals an equaliser.

It appeared both teams were to go in level at the break but it wasn`t to be so as Noel Hunt sent the 3,000 travelling Royals contingent into raptures. Roberts contested Faye for the ball and it rebounded kindly to the Irishman to bury it and put Reading in front at Upton Park.

West Ham would need a good response in the second period to get themselves back in the game, but both sides had a slow start to the second half, with a 25-yard effort from Matty Taylor the only effort worth of noting.

Many would have expected Reading to just sit on this lead but this wasn`t to be the case as the lead was extended on the hour mark. Noel Hunt was brought down by Abdoulae Faye, with Ian Harte stepping up and stroking the ball home to put the Royals in dreamland.

Similarly to the Barnsley game a few weeks ago, Brian McDermott`s men were not going to sit on just a two goal lead. Kebe was the pantomime villain at Upton Park but silenced his critics as he went on a superb 25-yard run; setting up McAnuff`s whose effort was saved easily by Green.

Captain McAnuff then had another effort but came closer with this effort, as Green kept out his low 20-yard drive. The Hammers fans were becoming increasingly frustrated, with Ricardo Vaz Te trying from range but his 30-yard effort was always going wide.

However, it was going to be a nervy final 12 minutes for Reading as the Hammers got themselves a goal back. A routine corner was easily headed home from Ricardo Vaz Te to give the home side renewed hope in this important promotion encounter.

West Ham applied pressure but Reading were always a threat on the break. A sixth goal was scored on 85 minutes at Upton Park and it went to the visitors. The ball deflected off Noel Hunt`s leg when he appeared in an offside position, but Mikele Leigertwood made no mistake by slamming the ball home.

The flood gates were now and truly opened at Upton Park as the Hammers defence was falling apart. Noel Hunt thought he added a fifth for his side but the linesman ruled it out for offside. Roberts then had an opportunity as he drove through on goal but his shot was blocked.

The hosts very rarely showed any signs of a reply with headers from Kevin Nolan and Nicky Maynard the only signs of a reply. Reading saw the game out for the best result of their season and very much puts them in the driving seat for automatic promotion.

West Ham: Green, Faubert, Tomkins, Faye, McCartney, O`Neil, Noble, Nolan, Taylor, Vaz Te, Cole

Subs: Collins, Lansbury, Baldock, Maynard, Carew

Reading: Federici, Cummings, Pearce, Gorkss, Harte, Kebe, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Hunt, Roberts

Subs: McCarthy, Tabb, Robson-Kanu, Church, Afobe