Curbs praises goalscoring duo

Alan Curbishley hailed the contribution of Dean Ashton and Scott Parker after they scored the goals that helped take all three points from the Riverside Stadium.

The pair have been battling back to fitness after suffering from knee injuries, but underlined in the 2-1 win at Middlesbrough how they have grown in stature with every passing game for West Ham United. Ashton was making just his third start in attack since returning from his lay-off while Parker has only been getting up to speed in the heart of the Hammers midfield since the turn of the month.

"The two players that got goals for us have been chasing their fitness in the Premier League and it is really difficult," the manager told Sky Sports after seeing Ashton equalise just before half-time and Parker seal the win in the closing stages. "For both of them to get through the last couple of weeks and get the goals today gives us a big boost."

Curbishley added: "It is a massive result for us. Considering the disappointment we had last week with the two defeats to Everton. To come here and bounce straight back is fantastic. It is great credit to the players who have managed to get themselves on 25 points before Boxing Day. It is fantastic."

His opposite number was understandably downbeat and, having seen his side take the lead through David Wheater, expected more from the game. "A draw would have probably been fair," Gareth Southgate told Sky Sports. "They have done a good job on us away from home. We have been done by a sucker punch at the end. We didn't see either half through. It is a big disappointment because we have had a decent run."