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A hat-trick from captain Kevin Nolan inspired West Ham United to a 4-2 victory over Reading to secure a top-half finish in the Barclays Premier League. Nolan opened the scoring in the first half and Ricardo Vaz Te doubled the hosts' advantage before the interval.
Reading mounted a spirited second-half turnaround with two goals in as many minutes from Garath McCleary and Adam Le Fondre, only for Nolan to wrap up all three points for West Ham by scoring two further goals late on to complete his hat-trick.
Defensive frailties have plagued Reading all season, with a number of soft goals contributing to their relegation to the Championship. That was highlighted once more as Nolan took advantage of a mix-up in the Reading defence to open the scoring after 23 minutes.
Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, a recent call-up to the England squad, fired a clearance into the back of Andy Carroll, who set up Nolan for the easiest of finishes. Vaz Te doubled West Ham's lead in the 34th minute following great build-up play from Mohamed Diame and Carroll. Diame found the on-loan Liverpool striker at the far post with a cross from the left which Carroll chested down before turning and setting up Vaz Te to guide the ball past McCarthy.
The home side then enjoyed a sustained period of pressure towards the back end of the first half with Diame and Joe Cole taking efforts from distance. Adkins brought on Le Fondre and Nick Blackman at half-time in a bid to find a way back into the game and the substitutions inspired Reading to mount a surging comeback.
Having enjoyed more of the possession and territory after the break, goals from McCleary and Le Fondre within the space of two minutes turned the match on its head. McCleary pulled one back in the 53rd minute with a strike from outside the box, taking a huge deflection off Mark Noble to wrong-foot Jussi Jaaskelainen in the West Ham goal. The substitutes then combined as Le Fondre equalised for Adkins' men after good play from Blackman down the left-hand side, finding the striker at the far post to slide the ball home.
The goals rocked West Ham, who initially looked very comfortable, but Nolan scored his second and West Ham's third in the 79th minute to restore their lead. Another lapse in concentration from Reading's defenders meant Nolan was able to guide the ball into the bottom corner past McCarthy.
Nolan netted his third to make it 4-2 with a close-range header following a right-wing cross from Modibo Maiga, who found the midfielder unmarked in the centre of the box.
West Ham end the season in 10th place, while Reading have to now plan for life in the Championship.
West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce: "It was a fantastic end of the season and fantastic entertainment value, just a great end to a very good season. It is great to see the players and fans appreciate what they have done for each other this season.
"We had a full house again, and it gives for a good summer for us all. We can look back on this season with great fondness in what we have done and achieved. We have a disciplined team with good ethics and good basics, and we have only lost four games at home, all to teams in the top seven."
Reading manager Nigel Adkins: "I said to the players at half time, at 2-0 down you're facing a challenge because West Ham want to have a party.
"We gifted them the first goal, West Ham wanted a special occasion but we turned it around. Great credit to the players for the character we showed.
"From 2-0 we showed character, but it's about what you do in both boxes.You look at the opposition and their aerial threat, plus set pieces, physical side of the game and Carroll in great form. He was unplayable at times. Adrian Mariappa has done fantastically for me, but I just thought that extra body who can do it in the air. It's a big ask for any centre half who is back in the England squad and a real handful."