Reading suffered defeat in their last Premier League game of the season, as they lost 4-2 to West Ham, despite a resurgent second-half comeback.
Nigel Adkins opted to make one change from the Royals` defeat against Manchester City, with the rather strange choice to bring in exiled defender Kaspars Gorkss, who has not played for Reading for five months. Adrian Mariappa was the player who was dropped for the Latvian captain, presumably to cope with West Ham`s direct style and physical presence.
It was an open start at Upton Park, with McCleary forcing the first save of the game from Jaaskelainen, before Andy Carroll could not get good enough contact on the end of Noble`s deep cross. Reading were having some joy down the Hammers` left hand side and Jobi McAnuff`s cross was met by Pogrebnyak, but Jaaskelainen was alert to palm away the Russian`s header.
Danny Guthrie has looked a very different player under the leadership of Adkins and almost scored his first goal in eight months, as his fizzing drive from 25 yards went just wide. It was a good spell for the away side and Chris Gunter had the best chance of the game so far, as Robson-Kanu`s smart flick set his compatriot through, but his finish did not test the keeper.
Alex McCarthy has been the star of the show for the past few games, backed up by his England call-up during the week, but gifted the hosts the lead in comical fashion. The young keeper received a pass back, but smashed his clearance off the back of Andy Carroll and fell kindly into the path of Kevin Nolan, who could not miss with an open goal.
It was starting to fall apart for Reading, as McCarthy made amends for his mistake, clawing Andy Carroll`s header onto the crossbar. Despite this superb save, Sam Allardyce`s side did eventually gain a two-goal cushion. Decent build up play down the right-hand side from Joe Cole and Demel, gave space and time for Ricardo Vaz Te to direct his effort into the corner.
Adkins` side looked shell-shocked and it could well have got worse if it wasn`t for the post, as Vaz Te smashed an effort onto the woodwork. The Royals boss opted to make two changes at the break, bringing on the attacking duo of Adam Le Fondre and Nick Blackman for Pavel Pogrebnyak and Hal Robson-Kanu, a move which changed the game.
Reading proved to be the dominant side after the break and deservedly got themselves back into the game, with Garath McCleary`s deflected effort carrying great power and giving Jaaskelainen no chance in goal. Just minutes later, the Royals were level, as the two substitutes combined, with Nick Blackman`s superb cross proving perfect for Adam Le Fondre to tap in at the back post.
Reading were pushing for a third goal and Chris Gunter and Garath McCleary were linking well on the right wing, but the final delivery was lacking in quality. The Hammers were starting to come back into the game, with Gorkss blocking Joe Cole`s effort well enough. However, Kevin Nolan regained the lead for West Ham, calmly slotting home past Alex McCarthy after a clever pass from Noble.
That goal took the life out of Reading and the home side continued to push for another goal and did so, as Maiga`s cross left Gorkss flat-footed and Nolan completed his hat trick with a header from five yards. The final whistle blew to signify the end of the campaign for both sides who were promoted last season, but one side proving to have a much more successful season than the other.
Vital Reading verdict: The game was a good summary of our season, no expectation, but false hope. It was a fairly even encounter, but the difference in quality in front of goal and defending was evident. Despite this and with Adkins only having one win in eight games, I am very confident that Adkins will bring success to our club next season.
West Ham – 4-4-1-1: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Collins, Reid, O`Brien, Noble, Diame, J Cole, Vaz Te, Nolan, Carroll
Subs: Henderson, Tomkins, Taylor, O’Neil, Collison, Paulista, Maiga
Reading – 4-2-3-1: McCarthy, Gunter, Gorkss, Morrison, Kelly, Karacan, Guthrie, McCleary, Robson-Kanu, McAnuff, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Taylor, Pearce, Mariappa, Akpan, Carrico, Blackman, Le Fondre
Made an absolute clanger for the opener, but recovered well by making a world class save. Could not have done anything about the other goals, but distribution still needs to be worked out if he is going to be Premier League quality.
A solid game once again from Gunter, who is improving by every game. Always shows a willingness to get forward, just needs to improve on his final delivery.
Some of the national papers said he struggled with Carroll, but I thought he did OK. Caught lapsing slightly for Nolan’s second goal.
You could see why we let him go on loan in January and was a brave call from Adkins to put him in. Was it the right decision? Probably not. Distribution clumsy and caught flat-footed for Nolan’s third goal.
Kept Joe Cole quiet all game and probably one of his best games at left back. However, I still don’t want to see him filling that spot next season.
Worked tirelessly as usual and seems to be forming a good partnership alongside Guthrie. Looks a different player under Adkins, not being scared to pass the ball.
See man of the match.
A threat throughout. Most of our decent play came from him and Gunter down the left flank. It would be good to see him be slightly more positive and drive past players like he did at Forest, he has proved he is capable of it.
Looks more of a threat through the middle, but needs to improve on his shooting. Still want to see him here next season, but that could well be his last one.
Was a smart flick to send Gunter through in the first half, but was non-existent apart from that. He will be linked with Premier League moves, but is probably not good enough yet.
Didn’t have a lot of luck in this game. I have tried to defend the Pog with the role he has, but just didn’t look interested in the game. I’d like him to stay, but will probably be off in the summer.
Probably his best game in a Reading shirt when he came on at half time. Used the ball much better and delivery was much better, but still lacking at times.
Le Fondre 6
Didn’t see a huge amount of the ball, but that isn’t his forte. Typical of his movement for the goal. Disappointed we didn’t try to dissect the Hammers defence through the middle and give him more chances, with the game much more open in the second period.