Ashton eyeing potent partnership

Dean Ashton is hoping to force his way into the starting lineup against Chelsea on Saturday and believes a strikeforce featuring him and Carlton Cole could pay dividends.

While acknowledging that Luis Boa Morte "would have something to say about" the forward places when West Ham United arrive at Stamford Bridge, Ashton is well aware that he and Cole, both 24 with barely a month between them, had a proven connection from their England Under-21 days. Looking back to that time, Ashton said "I enjoyed playing with him a hell of a lot".

The imposing pair have featured in five games together this season between 1 September and 6 October - but that run of matches came when Ashton was still finding his way back after a year out and Cole was just starting to get his confidence up. Ashton believed the time was right now for the two to click again as they did at U21 level.

He said: "[Carlton] has got pretty much all the attributes you would want as a striker. He's quick, he's strong and he's big. He's good in the air, he can score goals - there's not a lot more you'd want as a striker. So coupled with perhaps my link-up play we just used to hit it off. We have good respect for each other and I think he has done magnificently well.

"He knows the lads all think a lot of him and respect him - especially on the training field so he is going to go out there full of confidence. When he was just coming on as a substitute last season - coming in and going out - I think the fans didn't get to see the best of him. It is difficult coming on like that, if you are not playing every week it is difficult to then come into the team and be really good.

Having played briefly as a substitute himself in last Sunday's 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur and then getting 90 minutes, and two goals, in a Monday reserve game at Derby County, Ashton said he was more than ready for a starting role. "I want to play every game. I have missed a year and then to be on the bench is not that great. Obviously I'd love to play but it is the manager's decision and the players that have come in have done very well.

"I feel really good. Although I have been out for six weeks, I don't really feel the affects of it. I think because of all the work that I did and I managed to get a pre-season under my belt, I don't feel that I have lost a lot. It is down to the manager to decide and that is his job. I am not going to make it an easy decision for him. I want to play and I will make that known."

Ashton is looking forward to figuring in the same game as Chelsea's Didier Drogba, claiming with a smile that "I wish I could come back from injury and score two in the first 20 minutes". He added: "That is the quality of him. He has been out injured, comes straight back in and scores two goals. He looks really good. I think that just shows what a player he is at the moment and how confident he is. He is going to be a threat but he is not the only threat to us from Chelsea." In return, Chelsea will know that Ashton is not the only threat facing them.

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