Date: 30th December 2012 at 2:41pm
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Reading won their first match in nine games, as an early Pavel Pogrebnyak goal saw off West Ham in a high tension encounter at the Madejski Stadium.

Royals boss Brian McDermott opted to name the same line-up that drew with Swansea just three days ago, meaning Pavel Pogrebnyak remained the lone striker in a five-man midfield system. This game has always been fascinating for the neutral, due to its high tension and usual flurry of goals, but despite the lack of goals, the tension did not disappoint in the encounter at the Madejski Stadium.

The home side had been struggling for goals in recent games, but were very much gifted an clear-cut chance in the opening exchanges by James Collins. The Welsh defender’s back pass to his keeper was very poor, which allowed Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak to run through unchallenged and slot home comfortably. It was also the Russian’s first home league goal of the season.

West Ham struggled to respond to his early set back, but did test Adam Federici in the Reading goal on the half-hour mark, as James Collins tried to make amends for his early mistake, with the Australian tipping his looping header over the bar. The stopper was forced into a more conformable save minutes later, as skipper Kevin Nolan’s effort didn’t have enough direction to trouble Federici.

Sam Allardyce’s side improved as the half progressed, but
failed to create any major openings, with a much-improved Royals defence proving very resilient. However, the Hammers played with more conviction in the second period, as Calton Cole’s early effort gave possible danger signs to McDermott’s men. Substitute Jack Collison then forced Federici into palming away his effort in the box and was eventually cleared by the Reading backline.

With the away side on the front foot, it left themselves vulnerable to a possible break from Reading and that almost proved the case. Captain Jobi McAnuff drove in from the left side and played a square ball to Jem Karacan, whose rasping drive smashed against the bar and Jimmy Kebe’s rebound went harmlessly wide. However, replays showed that Jaaskelainen got possible fingertips to the ball.

The inswinging crosses of Jarvis were proving to be a test defensively for the Royals all afternoon and it almost payed off for the Hammers in injury time. The winger crossed in for an unmarked Ricardo Vaz Te at the back post, but the substitute somehow managed to head into the ground and hopelessly over the bar, in what was the best chance of the game by a country mile.

Tensions were boiling over at points during the game, with Jimmy Kebe certainly being a target for some individuals in the Hammers team. Carlton Cole also raised a few eyebrows during the game, but all has been done and gone now. Either way, it was a crucial three points and a very good clean sheet, which is two on the bounce now. Things are starting to look more promising now, onwards and upwards!

Reading: Federici, Gunter, Mariappa, Pearce, Harte, Karacan, Leigertwood, Kebe, McAnuff, Guthrie, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Taylor, Cummings, Morrison, Tabb, Robson-Kanu, Hunt, Le Fondre

West Ham: Jaaskelainen, Reid, Tomkins, O’Brien, Collins, Nolan, Jarvis, Taylor, Noble, O’Neil, Cole.
Subs: Spiegel, Spence, Demel, Diarra, Colison, Vaz Te, Maiga