Kitson's hat-trick revives Reading

Reading 3 - West Ham United 1
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The Independent Online

When Alan Pardew walked out on the manager's job at Reading in October 2003 to join West Ham it was, he said, in order to join a bigger club. Bigger, certainly, but not better.

When Alan Pardew walked out on the manager's job at Reading in October 2003 to join West Ham it was, he said, in order to join a bigger club. Bigger, certainly, but not better.

Last season West Ham came to the Madejski Stadium and lost to a couple of goals by Dave Kitson. This time the red-haired striker signed by Steve Coppell from Cambridge United for a bargain £150,000 deepened Pardew's unhappiness with a hat-trick, his second of the season, to take his goals total to 16 and thrust Reading in front of the Hammers in the chase for a Championship play-off place.

It was a spectacular way for Reading to terminate a bleak midwinter sequence of 11 League matches without a win stretching back to Boxing Day and they did it, what's more, without their second-best striker, Nicky Forster, omitted from the squad altogether after remarks by his agent about Reading's alleged reaction to a possible move to Wigan by his client.

Forster was never missed as Kitson and Dean Morgan exposed the lack of pace of Hayden Mullins and Malky Mackay at the heart of West Ham's defence, as well as the decision by Pardew to play his new midfield signing from Wolves, Shaun Newton, at right back in place of the suspended Tomas Repka.

While praising Kitson's finishing skills - and he could have had five with more considered application - Coppell was careful to point out the contribution of his team-mates. "A good player needs a supporting cast and today we provided that for him," he said.

Certainly Reading's back line regularly outmuscled West Ham and impressively stifled attacking ambitions. Only when Luke Chadwick was introduced for the second half and then Teddy Sheringham came on to pot a consolation goal did West Ham look anything other than ordinary.

It was clear from the start that Reading, players and supporters alike, had something to prove to Pardew. Within five minutes Ricky Newman's volley was shoved against an upright by Stephen Bywater and both Reading's first-half scores came from set pieces by Nicky Shorey, ploys with which Pardew should have been familiar.

When Mackay fouled Morgan to the left of the penalty box, the free-kick was placed unerringly on to Kitson's head for the simplest of goals, provoking a sarcastic chant of "Pardew out" from Reading's fans.

The second came from a corner on the right, swung in left-footed by Shorey, headed on at the near post by Morgan and dispatched at the far upright by Kitson. West Ham's lone response of any merit was a Matthew Etherington effort which took a huge deflection and might have gone in on a better day.

The third goal, after 57 minutes, again exposed the fallibility of Newton on the right side of defence. Morgan came boring in from that side and Bywater did well to block the shot.

He did even better to repel Kitson's swipe at the loose ball, but when it again ran free Kitson pursued the offering while West Ham stood rooted and smashed it home.

While conceding that his former team were much the better side on the day, Pardew announced that West Ham would spend today on the training ground in the hope that they would begin to show "more character than we did today."

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