For the first time this season, West Ham are looking nervously over their shoulders. When they beat Chelsea at the start of December there was cautious talk of pushing for Europe but reality has bitten hard.

The loss of Mohamed Diamé to a hamstring injury has contributed to a winless run of four matches and, from a position of comfort, West Ham are only six points above the bottom three. Saturday's defeat at Reading heightened the anxiety, although Kevin Nolan believes there is no need to panic yet.

"We are quite confident we can stay away from that," said West Ham's captain. "You are always looking over your shoulder, but we have got to continue to look at the teams above us and we are fairly confident that we can start picking up points in the next few games. We have got a massive month coming up.

"This is why we are in it. This is why we got promoted last season, this is why we went through all the hard work and the grit and determination, and that's what we have got to show in the next month. We have got to prove why we are here, and I am sure we will. We've got to keep our heads up, we've got Norwich at home on New Year's Day and we're going to be looking to put the record straight there."

Sam Allardyce admitted that Tuesday's visit of Norwich City will be "a big test of our nerve" and with that in mind, he was furious with Nolan and James Collins for picking up bookings that will rule the pair out against Chris Hughton's side. It was an afternoon to forget for Collins, whose woeful backpass allowed Pavel Pogrebnyak to score Reading's winner after five minutes.

Reading's task seemed hopeless two weeks ago and although they are still five points behind 17th-place Aston Villa, a second win of the season has lifted their spirits. Their victory owed much to a solid defensive performance and this was their second successive clean sheet.

"You have to build from the back and then you will get the breaks up front," the centre-back, Alex Pearce, said. "We've put an extra man in midfield and there is a lot more togetherness. We are competing for every ball, fighting for our lives and there is a great team spirit in that dressing room." They will need plenty of it at Tottenham on Tuesday.

Man of the match Adam Federici (Reading)