GOALKEEPER Alex McCarthy conceded a nightmare goal in his first match since being called into the England squad, enabling Kevin Nolan to score the the first of a hat-trick.
Nolan added two more goals late on to secure victory after Reading had fought back to parity, also sealing a top-half finish for West Ham.
McCarthy's error had come midway through the first period after an even start. His clearance was too casual, striking Andy Carroll, and his reaction to the mistake was too slow as he failed to close down Nolan, who skipped past him to roll the ball in.
"Alex is still young," Reading manager Nigel Adkins said. "He just needed to clear the football. It was poor execution. But if he does make a mistake, he can quickly forget it."
McCarthy alertly pushed a Nolan header on to the bar soon afterwards, but could not stop West Ham's second goal. Carroll, a real handful in what could be his farewell game for West Ham, sublimely controlled Mohamed Diame's pass, then dragged the ball back for Ricardo Vaz Te to score, inspiring chants of "we want you to stay". Hammers boss Sam Allardyce insisted afterwards: "We have to pursue Andy Caroll to the very end."
Reading had been poor, but shocked the home team with two goals in as many minutes from Garath McCleary's deflected strike and Adam Le Fondre's close-range finish.
West Ham regained composure and the lead when Mark Noble played a smart through-ball for Nolan and he slid the ball in. Nolan completed his treble when Modibo Maiga to crossed smartly for the captain to head in. (© Daily Telegraph, London)