Ashton stakes his claim

Dean Ashton is feeling good and is ready to fire West Ham United into the Carling Cup semi-finals on Wednesday.

Having come on as a half-time substitute to score the only goal in Sunday's 1-0 victory at Blackburn Rovers, Ashton is looking to do the same again against Everton and add to his four goals this season. "It's great to get 45 minutes and I feel like I'm back to what I was before so it's really nice."

Although eager to start matches and "repay the fans" for their support, Ashton admitted it benefited him at the weekend to enter the fray later in the game. "The first half was very tight - two evenly matched teams but the second halves do tend to open up and that was good for me. I managed to get some good touches and it was a good 45 minutes for me."

Ashton has previously spoken of his hunger to get to another major showpiece with West Ham United after his FA Cup memories from 2006 but he knows the club is in the middle of a busy and tricky run. "The Christmas period is very tough for all of us and to get a win this weekend will put everybody in a good frame of mind for Wednesday because we want to get to a final.

"It will be a tough time, perhaps we'll pick up a few injuries and players will have to play out of position but we've shown we're capable of coping with that."

Alan Curbishley is spoilt for choice in forward positions with Luis Boa Morte and Carlton Cole impressing in the forward positions of late - while Henri Camara, cup-tied in midweek, is waiting patiently. Cole, however, will have to sit out the 22 December trip to Middlesbrough because of suspension, something Ashton described as a "big blow".

"He's been playing really well for us," he added. "It's a shame for him because he has hit a good bit of form but I'm sure he'll come back raring to go the next game after that because there are a lot of games."