Kitson Shoots Down Hammers

WEST Ham United have lost 3-1 to Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, Teddy Sheringham's consolation goal in the second-half outshone by a Dave Kitson hat-trick.

Alan Pardew made three changes from the side that lost to Preston. Two of them were forced, Gavin Williams picking up an injury in training and Tomas Repka beginning a three match suspension. Fit-again Mark Noble and new signing from Wolves Shaun Newton were the replacements, the latter making his West Ham debut.

Bobby Zamora, a scorer against Preston, was included ahead of Teddy Sheringham, who dropped to a bench that included Luke Chadwick for the first time since picking up a hamstring injury at Sheffield United.

The players were welcomed by a crackling atmosphere inside the Madjeski Stadium, where 4,000 Hammers fans had come to back Alan Pardew's team.

Without a win since Boxing Day, Reading pushed forward early on and were denied by the post after only four minutes. Midfielder Ricky Newman's dipping 30 yard shot beat a stretching Stephen Bywater to his left before bouncing back off the upright.

Marlon Harewood headed narrowly wide from Matty Etherington's deep free-kick, but with 13 minutes gone a similar set-play at the other end saw Reading take the lead. Their prolific marksman Dave Kitson was the scorer, rising above Mullins to head home from Nicky Shorey's free-kick.

Three minutes later Glen Little danced past two Hammers defenders, before Steve Lomas intervened, before Kitson chased down a long clearance and was only denied a route on goal by some strong Chris Powell defending.

Chris Powell swung three dangerous crosses into the Reading box as Hammers hunted an equaliser, but an off-target Harewood header was their only noteworthy chance.

Then, with 27 minutes gone, the same Reading set-piece routine undid West Ham's defence again. Shorey whipped a corner from the right across the face of West Ham's goal and Kitson met it with a venomous header that Bywater got a hand to but couldn't claw out.

Just past the half hour mark Harewood header over from Mark Noble's corner, before Dean Morgan broke away down the Reading left, but lobbed the ball into Bywater's hands.

With half-time approaching Etherington's deflected drive from 25 yards caused a rare moment of panic for Reading goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.

Quick and lively, Reading never looked like surrendering their 2-0 lead and at the half-time whistle Hammers were left with plenty of work to do to avoid defeat.

HT: 0-2

In search of a way back into the game, Alan Pardew introduced Luke Chadwick for the second-half, Carl Fletcher making way as the Hammers reverted to a more classic looking four-man midfield.

There was certainly more urgency about the Hammers after the break, epitomised by Chadwick, who might have done better with his effort from the edge of the area that was hit straight at Hahnemann.

Kitson shot over at the near post after being put through by Steve Sidwell, but backed by their magnificent travelling contingent, Hammers were beginning to show their muscle.

Harewood tested Hahnemann's alertness with a stinging low shot from 25 yards, but at the other end Mullins had to be alert to head away from Kitson at the far post.

But with 57 minutes gone there was no stopping the Reading striker as he pounced to secure his hat-trick and make it 3-0.

He worked hard for it, bursting into the Hammers box and firing a shot that Bywater did well to parry. The Hammers 'keeper did even better to block Kitson's follow-up from point-blank range, but the Royals striker was alive and got up to fire home on the turn.

Still West Ham's fans refused to be silenced and Etherington almost gave them something to cheer with a thumping long-range drive that whistled just wide of Hahnemann's right hand post.

But their team's chances of getting back into the game were wasting away, and Reading look the more likely to score, Bywater denying a close-range header from Morgan before coming out to make a great block at the feet of Kitson.

A speculative volley from Mark Noble on 78 minutes was comfortably dealt with by Hahnemann, before an acrobatic effort by Ivar Ingimarsson forced Bywater to make a fine smothering block.

Hammers continued to press and pulled a goal back on 82 minutes when Shaun Newton bundled in a cross that found its way through to Marlon Harewood. His shot was blocked, but the ball broke to substitute Teddy Sheringham, who powered a low drive beyond Hahnemann.

Elliott Ward replaced Hayden Mullins for his League debut with three minutes left, but playing up front to add some height to the Hammers attack is hardly the way the big defender would have envisaged his debut.

Defending well, Reading held out to claim a 3-1 win and with it three valuable points.