Kitson double punishes Pardew

Reading 2 West Ham United 0
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The Independent Football

There was more than just the pain of West Ham's third successive away defeat for Alan Pardew to digest; this was a humiliation for the man who left Reading last autumn to manage the Hammers.

There was more than just the pain of West Ham's third successive away defeat for Alan Pardew to digest; this was a humiliation for the man who left Reading last autumn to manage the Hammers.

Six months on and the two clubs are now level on points in the play-off zone. By Pardew's high standards that is not progress.

He had left Berkshire for east London amid acrimonious circumstances, which gave the home fans their chance to pour scorn on his return - "You've got Alan Pardew" was one of the more printable chants - and by the end they were proudly singing, "We've got Stevie Coppell." This win was an achievement of improvisation for Coppell, who knows Pardew well from their days at Crystal Palace. Coppell was without five first-team players; Pardew had a full- strength side. On that basis, the servant still has something to learn from the master.

The difference between the two sides was two well-taken goals by Dave Kitson, a ginger-haired striker who was signed by Coppell on Boxing Day from Cambridge United. Kitson's strikes here certainly inflamed a match that was in no danger of being a calm encounter, given the way Pardew had left last September after five years in charge of the Royals.

But West Ham's Marlon Harewood had the best early chance, seeing a free-kick tipped away by Jamie Ashdown before Graeme Murty set up Reading's opener. With 10 minutes until half-time a long, curling pass set Kitson off, and as Andy Melville dithered he fired home from close range.

The goal seemed to deflate the visitors, who also lost at Millwall and Sunderland recently, and their fate was sealed seven minutes after the break when Tomas Repka gave away a free-kick. James Harper sent in a cross that deflected twice on its way to Kitson, who lashed home his shot off the underside of the crossbar.

Pardew felt that his players hardly competed, a trait which could harm their play-off chances. He said: "The passion and furore caught us out. There are question marks against us now. This was a damaging defeat and we've got a bit of work to do."

Reading 2 West Ham United 0
Kitson 35, 52

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 21,718

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