Etherington ensures Reading revenge

Majestic West Ham United superbly wiped away the memories of their New Year's Day defeat with a thoroughly deserved second away win of the season.

At the fifth time of asking, Matthew Etherington's destructive double and Craig Bellamy's early strike, secured Hammers' first-ever win on Reading soil on an afternoon when Robert Green also saved Kevin Doyle's late penalty and Dean Ashton made a welcome first start of the campaign.

Both sides had enjoyed Carling Cup success further west along the M4 in midweek.

And following their victory at Bristol Rovers, Hammers made five switches as Mark Noble, Dean Ashton, Matthew Upson, Etherington and Green came in for the injured Kieron Dyer and Bobby Zamora and substitutes Danny Gabbidon, Luis Boa Morte and Richard Wright.

Steve Coppell also made wholesale changes after the extra-time win at Swansea City as Marcus Hahnemann, Graeme Murty, Nicky Shorey, Bryn Gunnarsson, Stephen Hunt, Ivar Ingimarsson and Kevin Doyle all returned for the Royals.

On New Year's Day, Hammers had been unceremoniously hit for six and, 243 days on, only Green, Anton Ferdinand, Hayden Mullins and Lee Bowyer had survived as West Ham kicked off determined to ensure that there would be no repeat of that unwelcome start to 2007.

Certainly, they did not have to wait long to send out a stark signal of their intentions.

Indeed, a mere six minutes were on the clock, when Ingimarsson's control deserted him on the halfway line and that allowed the alert Bowyer to get the better of Kevin Harper and send Bellamy racing clear of his markers down the right flank.

And having netted twice at Bristol Rovers four days earlier, the single-minded, in-form Welshman confidently drilled a low, angled 18-yarder across the face of the exposed Hahnemann and into the far corner to claim his first Premiership goal for the Hammers.

Shortly afterwards, Harper almost atoned for his role in giving the visitors the lead but his low 20-yarder deflected off Upson's heel for a corner.

But buoyed by that opener, West Ham were certainly looking the stronger side and they might have doubled their lead after a quarter of an hour, when the breaking Etherington collected Green's huge throw and cleverly squared to the supporting Mark Noble, who rifled over from 15 yards.

Then on the half-hour mark, Ashton's awkward cross into the danger zone was plucked off partner Bellamy's studs by Hahnemann to the anxious applause of the Royals' fans amongst the crowd of 23,533.

At the other end, Lucas Neill and George McCartney's continuing tussles with both Leroy Lita and Emerse Fae typified Hammers defensive resolve and although the hitherto immaculate Green was beaten by Stephen Hunt's 20-yard curler, three minutes before the break, the Hammers were relieved to see their lead remain intact thanks to the crossbar.

Four minutes into the second half, however, West Ham doubled their advantage thanks to a fine free-flowing move that saw them switch the ball across the Berkshire turf to the left hand edge of the Reading penalty box, where Etherington played an intricate one-two with Bellamy before unleashing an unstoppable, rising 12-yarder beyond Hahnemann as Murty fruitlessly slid in.

Midway through the half, Ashton nodded down to Bellamy, who again carved out another fine chance for Bowyer but his low, angled 15-yard shot curled agonisingly wide of the far post.

Having put in an encouraging hour's work on his first full start for over a year, Ashton then retired as Carlton Cole stepped from the bench and shortly afterwards the Hammers' substitute saw the breaking Etherington foiled by Hahnemann.

Seeing the match hopelessly slipping from his grasp, Coppell also introduced Dave Kitson, Kalifa Cisse and Bobby Convey.

With a quarter-hour remaining, though, Reading looked all set to grab a lifeline, when Kitson was up-ended by the advancing Green but nothing was going to prevent the Hammers' 'keeper from claiming a clean sheet and he brilliantly dived to his left to claw out Doyle's spot-kick and dampen any hope of a Royals recovery.

And well into stoppage time the fleeing Etherington piled on yet more misery for the beaten Berkshire side, when he collected Cole's clever crossfield ball and rifled a low 15-yard shot past the lonely figure of Hahnemann to make it 3-0.