West Ham United 1 Reading 1

Last updated : 26 December 2007 By Footymad Previewer
A goal up against ten men, West Ham were in festive mood before they ultimately gifted relieved Reading the chance to get back into this game and secure a 1-1 draw.

And after seeing Nolberto Solano give his side a first-half lead, Alan Curbishley was left fuming and frustrated by Dave Kitson's 60th-minute leveller for a Royals' outfit who had seen Brynjar Gunnarsson sent off on the half-hour.

Both teams had come into this game boosted by late, late victories over north-east opposition on Saturday and, following their win at Middlesbrough, the 11th-placed Hammers made just one switch as Carlton Cole returned from suspension to partner Dean Ashton in attack in place of Henri Camara.

Four points and one spot below Curbishley's side, Reading - who had managed just two draws away from the Madejski Stadium all season - had named an unchanged line-up after their controversial last-gasp victory over Sunderland.

But winless on their travels all season, Reading had never looked like leaving Upton Park with their first three-pointer of the season.

Indeed, inside the opening seconds, man-of-the match Hayden Mullins ended a brave charge to the 18-yard line with a low shot, which marked the start of a busy afternoon for Marcus Hahnemann, who then saw Solano curl a free-kick just inches wide of his right post.

At the other end, raiding Reading saw Kevin Doyle both send a low effort wide and a diving header into Robert Green's midriff.

And on the quarter-hour mark, the Republic of Ireland striker glanced the ball down for Bobby Convey, who forced a courageous point-blank stop out of the Hammers keeper.

But just as Reading looked to be clawing their way back into the match, Peter Walton pointed to the tunnel as he delivered a festive card to forget to Gunnarsson, after the Icelandic international midfielder launched himself, two-footed, at Mullins.

Now enjoying the advantage of an extra man, West Ham pressed on and after Ashton deposited the ball on to the roof of the net, they took a 42nd-minute lead, when Solano picked up the pieces after Cole was halted on the edge of the Reading area.

Seizing onto the loose ball, the Peru international got behind Nicky Shorey and cleverly lofted the ball over the advancing Hahnemann and beyond Ibrahima Sonko to give West Ham an interval lead.

The workaholic Mullins then scorched a shot across the face of goal and, early in the second half, Scott Parker just found the angle too tight as Hahnemann saved.

Buoyed by those let-offs, Reading took advantage of what Curbishley described as a 'shocking piece of defending' on the hour, when the patient Shorey returned a defensive clearance back into the heart of the home defence, where the unmarked Kitson turned and fired a 12-yarder wide of the exposed Green.

In reply, Jonathan Spector headed against the outside of Hahnemann's near post and then Freddie Ljungberg saw the visiting keeper scoop his close-range effort high into the East End sky.

By now, resilient Reading were defending with determination and in their droves and, although Curbishley shuffled the pack with a couple of substitutions, his side, who saw Ashton head against the post in stoppage time, had to settle for a point as opposed to the three that they had earlier had firmly in their grasp.