Ashton double downs Wigan

On-looking England coach Fabio Capello saw Dean Ashton kick-off West Ham United's season in superlative style at the Boleyn Ground with a quick-fire double on Saturday afternoon.

With England due to play the Czech Republic in Wednesday's Wembley friendly, the once-capped striker could not have picked a better time to plunder two goals inside the opening nine manic minutes, although he was substituted in the closing stages to leave a question mark hanging over any midweek international involvement.  Amr Zaki struck for the improved Latics early in the second half but it was still not enough to prevent West Ham United from collecting their first three points of the campaign.

Curbishley had handed new signing Valon Behrami his Barclays Premier League debut at right-back in a reshuffled defence that saw skipper Lucas Neill switch flanks to left back, while Calum Davenport and Matthew Upson took their places at centre-back, in front of another England hopeful, Robert Green. With anchormen Scott Parker and Mark Noble in midfield alongside the probing Julien Faubert and Matthew Etherington, the West Ham United manager paired Ashton and Carlton Cole in attack.

With seven substitutes now allowed to be named, there were first appearances on the home bench for on-loan goalkeeper Jan Lastuvka and England youth starlet, Jordan Spence, alongside the more familiar faces of Luis Boa Morte, Hayden Mullins, Kyel Reid, Lee Bowyer and Freddie Sears. Steve Bruce gave debuts to summer signings Lee Cattermole, Zaki and Olivier Kapo but the Latics new boys were still finding their feet on the rich, green Boleyn Ground grass, when Ashton got Curbishley's men off to that fantastic flyer.

Indeed, just three minutes were on the clock, when the No9 collected Faubert's slide-rule pass into the Wigan penalty area and, after turning the flat-footed Paul Scharner, he lashed an unstoppable, rising 15-yard shot beyond the well beaten Chris Kirkland. That clinical finish must surely have brought a nod of approval from Signor Capello, who then saw the striker double his tally six minutes later, when he bundled the ball in from a couple of yards after Davenport hooked Cole's flick-on towards the far post.

With the shirt-sleeved claret and blue fans amongst an opening day crowd of 32,758, cheekily chanting 'We are top of the league' ,Cole then saw Kirkland tip over his looping back-header as Wigan well and truly wobbled. On the quarter-hour mark, however, the industrious Cole was back in his own area nodding out from under his own bar and, then he found himself back at the other end, steering the ball to the grounded Kirkland after the barn-storming Behrani squared into the visitors' six-yard box.

Parker was booked for a foul on Wilson Palacios and, although the luminous, yellow-shirted Latics had forced a handful of corners and fired a sprinkling of speculative efforts towards Green's goal, it was the claret and blue jerseys, who departed at the interval well on top, albeit Bolton Wanderers' three-goal lead over Stoke City meant that Gary Megson's men were sitting at the Premier League summit.

If the hosts had got off to an electrifying start in the first-half, Bruce's boys took less than two minutes of the second period to claw themselves back into the contest, when Zaki volleyed in from eight yards after Palacios nodded on Manyor Figueroa's long-throw into the danger zone.  Just moments later, the Egyptian striker might have snatched a second, too, but as he looked to break into the West Ham United area, he tumbled under the challenge of Davenport, who followed Parker into referee Steve Bennett's book.

That was a wake-up call for the home side, who saw the flying Faubert send a 20-yarder into Kirkland's ribcage, before Cole also went close to restoring the two-goal margin, but with Wigan now finding width, Curbishley's men were no longer having it all their own way. With 20 minutes remaining, the injured Ashton walked down the tunnel to be replaced by Sears, while Mullins came on for Parker and then Luis Boa Morte for Faubert

Cole, who was still playing his part at both ends of the pitch, and Sears combined well in the closing stages as West Ham United looked to see out the victory although the Latics continued to press. Curbishley's men had done just enough though to open the season with a welcome win.