Ashton set to revive Hammers' survival bid

February 22, 2007

Dean Ashton is set to be plunged straight into West Ham's desperate Premiership survival battle after seven months on the sidelines.

The £7million striker is ready to answer manager Alan Curbishley's SOS call after stepping up training over the last fortnight as he continues his recovery from the broken ankle he suffered on England duty back in August.

Ashton has been pencilled in for a reserve outing against Charlton's second string on Monday, and a successful run-out could see him on the bench for the crucial London derby against Tottenham at Upton Park on March 4.

'Dean has started full running and it may be a question of taking a short cut with him so he might be involved a bit quicker,' said Curbishley.

'We've got a reserve game on Monday and he might be involved. He's been running fully for two weeks now as well as kicking a ball.

'Sometimes you'd like to get a week of football work under his belt but he feels fit within himself. We'll push him hard over the weekend and see how we stand then.'

Ashton's freak injury - sustained during his first call-up to the national squad ahead of England's clash with Greece - has been one of the chief reasons behind West Ham's struggles this season.

The 23-year-old, who was brought in by previous manager Alan Pardew during the 2006 January transfer window, made an immediate impact in east London. He scored six goals during his first half season with the club, including one in the Hammers' epic FA Cup final defeat by Liverpool.

Marlon Harewood, Bobby Zamora, Teddy Sheringham, Carlton Cole, Carlos Tevez and Kepa Blanco have all tried, with varying degrees of success, to fill the breach but the Hammers remain in deep trouble in the Premiership drop zone - they are now six points behind fourth-bottom Wigan.

Midfielder Lee Bowyer is also likely to make his comeback against the Addicks' reserves after two months out with a dislocated shoulder.

Of more pressing concern for Curbishley, however, is this weekend's must-win clash trip to The Valley to face the team he managed for 15 years, and a meeting with new Charlton boss Pardew.

'We are in desperate need of a win and we're hoping it will come on Saturday,' added Curbishley.