Reading v Hammers

There was certainly no Happy New Year for West Ham United, who kicked off 2007 with this crushing defeat at rainswept Reading.

A Kevin Doyle double plus efforts from Brynjar Gunnarsson, Stephen Hunt, Leroy Lita, and an Anton Ferdinand own goal, saw Steve Coppell's side leave Alan Curbishley with a massive hangover as the east enders slumped to their heaviest defeat since Manchester United dished out six of the best in the FA Cup fourth round at Old Trafford in January 2003.

Certainly, the omens had not looked good for the Hammers as they headed to the Madejski Stadium with just two draws and a brace of Bobby Zamora goals to show from their 10 Premiership away days.

But following Saturday's disastrous defeat against Manchester City, Curbs had at least been able to recall the suspended duo of Paul Konchesky and skipper Nigel Reo-Coker in place of an ill Matthew Etherington and substitute Jonathan Spector.

Up front, the fit-again Zamora - the scorer of our last away goal at Liverpool over four months ago - replaced the rested Teddy Sheringham, while Carlton Cole and Carlos Tevez were named on the bench alongside Shaun Newton, who returned to the squad for the first time this season after completing a seven-month ban for failing a drugs test.

Certainly, in the opening exchanges West Ham looked brighter on the attack as Lee Bowyer sent a 12-yarder bobbling towards the exposed Marcus Hahnemann before Reo-Coker and Hayden Mullins also kept the American 'keeper busy with long-rangers.

Ninth-placed Reading had gone down in their last two home matches against Blackburn Rovers and Everton, but after subsequently drawing with Chelsea and losing narrowly at Premiership pace-setters Manchester United over the festive period, Coppell made just one switch as Hunt came in for Graeme Murty following the 2-3 defeat at Old Trafford.

And after coming through that all too brief period of Hammers' urgency, the Royals quickly put on a command performance as they raced into a devastating four-goal interval lead.

Just 12 minutes were on the clock when Gunnarsson climbed above Danny Gabbidon to glance Nicky Shorey's right-wing free-kick beyond Robert Green from six yards and claim his first goal of the season.

Two minutes later, Glen Little picked out the ghosting run of Steve Sidwell and when the flame-haired midfielder crossed to the far post, Hunt had all the time in the world to nod the ball past the stranded Hammers' 'keeper and open his account, too.

Worse was yet to come for Curbs, who saw Bowyer retire after falling awkwardly on his shoulder under the weight of James Harper's tackle after a quarter-of-an-hour and that was the cue for Newton's entrance.

The midfielder could have been forgiven for wishing that he had stayed in the dug-out, though, for on half-hour mark, yet another Shorey right-wing free-kick extended Reading's advantage when the unfortunate Ferdinand beat everyone to the cross and nodded the ball beyond Green at the near post.

And then ten minutes before the break, Shorey was given the freedom of Royal Berkshire as he trotted past Mullins, Gabbidon and Konchesky before picking out the overlapping Harper, who simply invited top-scorer Doyle to stroke home from six yards.

Spector replaced Harewood for the start of the second half but, even with another defender on the field, West Ham still could not prevent the onset of yet more damage.

On 53 minutes, Doyle released Sidwell, who picked out the sliding Lita and under pressure from Christian Dailly he sent an eight-yarder skidding through the clutches of Green and over the line as Spector desperately tried to hack the ball clear.

But even with five goals on the board, rampaging Reading were not finished and, with 13 minutes remaining, Doyle delivered the last rites of the afternoon, when he out-jumped everyone at the near post to glance home Shorey's right-wing corner and claim his tenth goal of the season.