Ashton adds to striking options

Dean Ashton is set to boost Alan Curbishley's attacking options as West Ham United welcome Newcastle United looking to break the visitors' run of three clean sheets.

The club's leading scorer Ashton has been back in training following a bout of tonsillitis but will have competition for places as Bobby Zamora and Carlton Cole both scored in last week's 2-1 win against Derby County, while Freddie Sears is also in the mix. The striker's return is possibly the only addition to the manager's options for the weekend as Matthew Upson, Anton Ferdinand and Jonathan Spector are all struggling.

"It is very similar to last week," Curbishley said. "Dean Ashton has trained all week after being ill ... Matty Etherington has just started training this week. We are hoping Lee Bowyer joins in very soon. Perhaps in some respects we need the season to go on a little bit longer because one or two of them will be nearing fitness when we break up."

While the manager has five or six players on the long-term list, he has been boosted of late by the impressive introduction of young talent like James Tomkins and Freddie Sears. "[Both] started last week and the squad is very similar to then. We will have to see. I have got no problems playing young players. The one I feel a little bit disappointed for is Jack Collison who was given his debut up at Bolton in a poor team performance ... Freddie has had a bit of football in the last two or three weeks and Tomks has not let anyone down. We will have to see how they shape up."

The manager has yet again been pleased with the strength in depth in his squad as he explained why he replaced Sears late on against Derby with eventual match-winner Cole. "Freddie was running out of legs. You could see that and he needed to be replaced. We put on Carlton Cole, who has had a really good season for us and has had a little bit of a break in recent weeks. He came on nice and fresh and that's what it is about."