Hammers end on a high after Nolan treble
Captain Kevin Nolan scored a hat-trick as West Ham signed off the Barclays Premier League campaign with an entertaining 4-2 win over relegated Reading at Upton Park.
The Irons were in complete control after a mistake from new England call-up Alex McCarthy gifted Nolan the opener on 23 minutes, with Ricardo Vaz Te sweeping home a second following more good work from Andy Carroll, completing the final game of his season-long loan from Liverpool.
However, the Royals, who were relegated a couple of weeks ago, responded with two quick goals at the start of the second half through Garath McCleary and substitute Adam Le Fondre. The Irons, though, made sure of a creditable top-10 finish when Nolan netted again and then completed his hat-trick with a header three minutes from time.
West Ham created an early opening when a deep cross from Mark Noble floated over to the far post, where Carroll just could not get enough contact to steer the ball past McCarthy. The Royals were not about to roll over and were almost ahead on eight minutes when Pavel Pogrebnyak's downward header was turned away at full stretch by Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Chris Gunter was clear of the West Ham defence on 22 minutes down the right and on into the penalty area, but his angled shot flew into the side netting. It proved a costly miss as West Ham went up the other end and took the lead, with more than a helping hand from the Reading keeper.
There seemed little danger as McCarthy went to clear a routine back-pass, but only managed to smack the ball into Carroll. Nolan was on hand to collect, sidestep the embarrassed Royals number 21 and roll the ball into an empty net.
McCarthy then showed just what he is capable of when pushing a bullet-header from Nolan up on to the crossbar. But it was 2-0 on 34 minutes. Carroll was again involved, as the England centre-forward pulled down a deep cross from the left and laid it back into the path of Vaz Te, who drove the ball back into the bottom corner.
West Ham continued to press ahead of the interval and Vaz Te rattled the woodwork after darting into the right side of the penalty area once again, before Mohamed Diame drilled his 20-yard shot over the crossbar.
The visitors had a goal back on 53 minutes as McCleary's shot from the edge of the penalty area was deflected past the keeper off Noble. Remarkably, Reading were level within 90 seconds. Nick Blackman got away down the left and his ball floated right through the West Ham six-yard box toward the far post, where Le Fondre arrived to smash in the equaliser.
West Ham slowly gained some momentum, and restored their lead on 79 minutes after Nolan latched on to a clever chip from Noble to hold off the Reading defence and slot past McCarthy. And the Royals keeper was beaten again three minutes from time when Nolan headed in a cross from Modibo Maiga to complete his hat-trick.