West Ham musings by Pete May, author of Hammers in the Heart, West Ham:Irons in the Soul and Flying So High:West Ham's Cup Finals.
Saturday, March 31
West Ham 2 Reading 4
In the Newham Bookshop Jeremy Nicholas is discussing sales of Mr Moon Has Left The Stadium and match day requests with Vivian. While in Green Street Nigel and Matt have nabbed the corner seat and are wondering if George Osborne and David Cameron are going to turn up for a photoshoot in Ken's Cafe to detoxify the government after pastygate. Strangely they don't. But we do note that West Ham's trophy cabinet has been found along with the foundations of the Thames Ironworks in the archaeological dig beneath the Limmo Peninusla at Canning town. Baldock and Maynard's shooting boots might be down there too.
On to the game played in unseasonal sunshine. What a bizarre performance. We play really well for 44 minutes taking an early lead just after Mystic Morris has said you wouldn't think either team were at the top the league. Nolan shows some great skill to find Taylor and then heads his cross against the post and Cole manages to prod home the rebound. We play it on the ground and Vaz Te causes big problems on the right and several times we almost get on the end of crosses to make it 2-0. But as Reading improve we make two bizarre mistakes. Noble gives the ball away to concede a needless corner and it's headed in by Gorkss who beats Nolan's challenge. Then in first half injury time Tomkins makes another mistake, Faubert slips and the unmarked Hunt makes it 2-1. Even then we almost equalise as Cole has a header scrambled off the line.
We utterly capitulate in the second half. The non-appearance of Noble is crucial and bizarrely we bring on Collins and move Tomkins to midfield. Hesitancy from Faubert and then a foul by Faye — who is probably still suffering from the effects of concussion at Peterborough — gifts Reading a soft penalty conveyed by Harte. Vaz Te pulls a goal back with a fine header from a corner, but instead of battering the Reading goal we stop pressing in midfield and allow Reading to walk in a fourth that is possibly offside.
Maynard and Baldock come on to little effect, apart from one chance created by Nolan when Maynard heads too close to the keeper. There appears to be a real lack of mental strength and character in the side on the evidence of this second half. Yes they played in midweek, but it's not an excuse. It's not long balls that are the problem or the crowd which remains loyal throughout, but terrible defending, something we're supposed to have eliminated, and a hugely worrying lack of fight when we pull it back to 2-3. Defeat is tolerable but not fighting for 90 minutes isn't. Reading look much better than us and we don't deserve automatic promotion playing like this. As Allardyce says, we need to win our final six games to have a chance. Play-offs here we come.