Ashton returns in Dagenham win

West Ham United secured a 2-0 victory over Football League new-boys Dagenham & Redbridge in their opening pre-season friendly of the summer, but it was the sight of Dean Ashton back in action again that really had Hammers fans celebrating.

The 23-year-old England striker - sidelined for the past 11 months with a broken ankle - played the full second half as Alan Curbishley's men kicked off their 2007-08 preparations, and came close to marking the occasion with a goal - hitting the bar with a powerful header in the 64th minute.

In the end, it was youngster Mark Noble who grabbed the goalscoring headlines, with an expertly-taken free-kick seven minutes from the end, before Dagenham defender Ross Smith headed a Luis Boa Morte corner into his own net moments later.

The match was a testimonial for Daggers keeper Tony Roberts, who had little to do in a quiet first half as both sides took time to find their feet after just a week or so of pre-season training following the summer break.

Young Hammers striker Zavon Hines, partnering Carlton Cole up front, fired an early shot into the side-netting, before Dagenham midfielders Southam and Huke both went close with long-range efforts.

With 10 minutes of the half remaining, Lee Bowyer narrowly failed to connect with a Cole lay-off just six yards out, before winger Kyel Reid headed a Hayden Mullins cross on to the top of the bar six minutes later.

The interval brought about wholesale changes for both teams, with Curbs making nine in total. New signings Scott Parker, Julien Faubert and Richard Wright came on for their debuts, while Ashton stepped out to a rousing reception from all areas of the ground, and Danny Gabbidon and Matthew Upson also made welcome returns after their injury-hit 2006-07 campaigns.

Just moments after the restart, though, the cheers turned to hushed silence when Ashton was the victim of an ill-timed lunge from defender Jon Boardman, leaving the Hammers striker grounded in pain.

Much to everyone's relief, though, Deano was soon back on his feet, showing no signs of ill-effect and, no doubt, psychologically boosted after coming through his first crunching challenge unscathed.

Minutes later, he sent a 25-yard free-kick flying just inches wide of the target and then, on 64 minutes, soared to meet Boa Morte's inviting cross, only to see his headed effort rebound off the crossbar.

As the game drew to a close, England under-21 internationals Mark Noble and Anton Ferdinand were handed a taste of the action in place of Cole and Pantsil, and it was Noble who eventually broke the deadlock in the 83rd minute, curling a superb free-kick past Roberts after a foul on Faubert - impressive on his first appearance in England.

Two minutes later, Boa Morte whipped in a corner from the right that eluded his team-mates but was met by the unfortunate Smith, who somehow managed to divert the ball into the top corner from six yards out.

The 5,657 crowd went away happy after two late goals and the first sight of Dean Ashton in almost a year, while Alan Curbishley and his coaching staff will have been satisfied with a bright and positive start to their preparations for the new campaign…

West Ham United (first half): Green; Pantsil, Collins, Gabbidon, McCartney; Reid, Mullins, Bowyer, Etherington; Hines, Cole.

West Ham United (second half): Wright; Pantsil (Ferdinand 82), Davenport, Upson, Spector; Faubert, Parker, Collison, Boa Morte; Cole (Noble 67), Ashton.

Att: 5,657

Referee: J Singh