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Madejski Moments - Reading 6-0 West Ham

In the latest in the series, Matt Williams looks at one of Reading's greatest ever home performances...

Coppell described the 6-0 win as his team's best ever performance at the Madejski Stadium
Coppell described the 6-0 win as his team's best ever performance at the Madejski Stadium
Steve Bardens

When compiling an early list of all the biggest 'Madejski Moments' there was one opposing team who kept cropping up. From their first visit to the Madejski in the League Cup on September 11 to the infamous 'Sockgate' in our most recent promotion season, Reading v West Ham United has always provided something memorable.

We'll get on to both those aforementioned matches soon enough I'm sure (and let's not forget there's two delightful Pardew returns to cover off too), but if you're going to start recalling West Ham's Madejski Stadium visits, then there's really only one match with which you can start.

It was New Years Day in Reading's debut Premiership season. The first half of the year had gone well - even after a record breaking promotion campaign, a lack of top flight experience or big money signings meant fans would be foolish to have expected anything less than a relegation battle - and the Royals were sat fairly comfortably in mid-table.

December, however, had been a tricky month, providing a stark reminder that there could be no resting on our laurels. Along with the obligatory 0-0 at Watford, we'd had three good performances away at Newcastle, Chelsea and Man Utd but only had one point to show for it, whilst two home matches against Blackburn and Everton had both resulted in disappointing defeats.

It was too soon to really panic. We'd all earmarked December as a tricky month, and our early season performances proved that we'd got what it takes to earn the points we'd need to survive. But a win against West Ham would be a hugely welcome way to blow away the New Years Eve hangovers and to get the team back on track.

And boy did our wishes come true.

There are certain scorelines that don't tell the full story of a game, but this one does. Reading simply destroyed their opponents, playing some of the best football our fans had ever seen. If this 2006/07 season was the pinnacle of Reading's existence so far, then this game was the pinnacle of that season.

The line-up that day wasn't exactly what you'd recall being the 'complete' Reading side of the era. Murty, Convey and Kitson were all missing, replaced by Gunnarsson, Hunt and Lita. But even then the rest of the side rolls off the tongue. Hahnemann...Shorey...Sonko...Ingimarsson...Sidwell...Harper...Little, Doyle; what we'd give for even a few of those right now.

It was one of the replacements though that opened the scoring. Brynjar Gunnarsson, who throughout his Reading career had the knack of filling in at the drop of the hat and popping up with important goals, nodded a Shorey free kick past Robert Green for his first Premiership strike.

And with just 15 minutes on the clock, another of the replacements made it two. Stephen Hunt found himself unmarked on the left hand side of the box and kept his composure to send the Reading fans into raptures.

A great start, but the Royals would not relent. The Reading players could sense the nerves in a West Ham team buckling under the weight of their supporters' expectations and went for the kill. First it was 3-0 when Anton Ferdinand diverted a Shorey cross into his own net, then Doyle made it 4 before half time by finishing off another great move involving Harper and, yes, Shorey.

This was one of Shorey's best games for the club. It's rare that a full back would pick up a man of the match award in a win of this magnitude, but that was the influence that Shorey had when on song. His distribution was excellent, his positioning perfect, and his smart movement and close control more than made up for a perceived lack of pace. It came as no surprise that it was during this game that the "Shorey for England" chants were taken to a new and realistic level.

The second half was a case of damage limitation for West Ham, and a chance for Steve Coppell to give some of the patient replacements a run out. John Oster - as he did so often during his time at Reading - replaced Glenn Little mid-way through the second half and immediately gave the opposition left-back a different challenge to worry about. Andre Bikey replaced Ibrahima Sonko, meaning West Ham's strikers went from running into one brick wall to another, whilst Seol Ki Hyeon came on for James Harper. Seol will of course always be remembered at Reading for his goal in the reverse fixture at Upton Park - a shot from 35 yards that would still be travelling to this day if the net hadn't been there to stop it.

Reading's strikers finished off the rout. Lita grabbed the 5th with a low shot under Green, whilst Doyle nodded in yet another Shorey delivery to finish the job. By this time the West Ham fans' chants had turned from gallows humour to downright anger, and it was clear that new boss Alan Curbishley had a big job on his hands to drag his team out of the relegation zone.

Reading's manager had a bit of an easier task. He described the performance afterwards as the best football his team had played under his leadership, and it was hard to disagree. Even after the sixth went in Lita, Oster and Doyle could have all added to the scoreline, but for some heroics from Green.

And just to sum up how good the Royals were that day, even Match of the Day couldn't resist devoting some time to Reading's brilliance, as opposed to them usually just dwelling on the other team's faults.

It's always good to get one (or in this case, six) over West Ham. But this result was also vital in providing a strong platform for the second half of the season. Reading would go on an unbeaten run that wouldn't see them lose again until a long trip to Middlesbrough at the end of February. That run would include a five game winning streak that effectively guaranteed the club a second season in the top flight, and featured consecutive 2-0 home wins against established Premiership sides Man City and Aston Villa.

We unfortunately ended the season just one point shy of a European place, but if you'd have told any fan at the beginning of the year that we'd finish our inaugural Premiership season in 8th place they'd have thought you were crazy. This was a stunning season that I sadly don't think many of us will ever see topped. And even if we do somehow finish higher, the surprise and delight of it all the first time round will take some beating. Reading were slick, stylish, solid in defence and a joy to watch going forward. The complete performance against the unhappy Hammers proved just that.