Reading 1 West Ham 0
Pavel Pogrebnyak struck his third league goal for Reading to give Brian McDermott’s side their second Barclays Premier League win of the season at the expense of West Ham.
The Royals had halted a run of seven defeats with a draw at home to Swansea on Boxing Day and went one better against a poor Hammers side, moving three points clear of bottom club QPR in the process.
McDermott had said before the game that his players would do whatever they had to do to start picking up victories.
As it turns out they had to do almost nothing to beat a lacklustre West Ham as James Collins presented Pogrebnyak with a late Christmas gift.
The Hammers defender looked to play a simple ball back to goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen and Pogrebnyak stole in to slot past the Finn and put Reading ahead with just five minutes on the clock.
Royals’ winger Jimmy Kebe was causing problems down the right flank early on and a 14th minute cut-back almost found Pogrebnyak but was well cleared.
Two minutes later the same duo combined well on the edge of the area but Kebe’s final ball drifted behind for a goal-kick.
West Ham struggled to make an impression in attack but skipper Kevin Nolan released Matt Taylor just before the half-hour mark, but his cross was collected by Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici.
A few tough tackles started flying in as the first half progressed with Pogrebnyak joining West Ham’s Mark Noble in referee Michael Oliver’s notebook for a foul on Winston Reid.
The hosts then gifted West Ham a half-chance in the final seconds of the first half as they dallied on the ball outside their own penalty area.
Nolan pounced and found Gary O’Neil, but he appeared to be caught in two minds and his final ball was neither a shot or a cross.
Pogrebnyak had the ball in the back of the net again five minutes after the restart but was flagged offside after latching onto a through ball from Mikele Leigertwood.
West Ham boss Sam Allardyce introduced Jack Collison in place of the ineffectual Taylor with 54 minutes gone with the Wales international making only his second appearance since returning from a career-threatening knee injury.
The 24-year-old almost drew the visitors level 10 minutes later but his low shot was parried by Federici with no West Ham player able to tap home the rebound.
Although the Hammers were starting to finally find their feet in the game they almost fell further behind when Jem Karacan’s thunderous effort was tipped onto the bar by Jaaskelainen with Kebe firing the rebound into the crowd.
Ricardo Vaz Te was the next player to be thrown on by Allardyce with the Portuguese returning to first-team action for the first time since dislocating a shoulder in early October.
The winger had impressed earlier in the campaign and flashed a cross in with 10 minutes remaining that was hacked clear by Chris Gunter in front of the sliding Modibo Maiga.
Vaz Te was involved again moments later as he missed West Ham’s best opening of the game, inexplicably heading Matt Jarvis’ cross wide of the goal from four yards out.
Reading managed to see out the closing stages to claim what could be a vital three points while West Ham’s lack of away goals again proved their undoing.
The Hammers have only scored five goals on their travels in the league so far this season and the defeat leaves them only six points off the bottom three.