Cole working hard

Carlton Cole is a man on a mission as he begins preparation for the Boxing Day trip to Portsmouth.

The 25-year-old striker was desperately unlucky not to hit the back of the net in the weekend game with Aston Villa and manager Gianfranco Zola vowed to spend 'every day' working with No12 until he is 'fed up'. Far from being displeased, Cole believes the improvements to his game as a result of his manager's coaching are already starting to show.

"If you look at my game, I wasn't even getting into positions to score," he said. "But now I've analysed my game and I'm trying to improve my end product. The Villa game one of those games where I should have scored at least twice as I should have against Chelsea. I'm getting into the positions but now it's about executing it."

Cole had several chances in the second period to open the scoring but each time found Brad Friedel equal to his and his team-mates' efforts, much to the striker's frustration. He said "Friedel did well and after the game he said to me that he owed me one because I scored against him last year. Hopefully next time I'll take my chances and it will come.

"I'm working hard everyday in training and all I need is for it to break for me and go in the net. There were a few when there were ricochets or the keeper made a save and it just dropped two yards away and it would be a tap in, but that's the way it is going."

Friedel's fine showing made it two goalkeepers in a week that frustrated Cole after Petr Cech denied the forward a last-minute winner at Stamford Bridge with another wonder save. The former England Under-21 striker knows his misfortune cannot last forever and he will be looking to prove it when West Ham United play two games in two days, starting with the trip to Fratton Park on Boxing Day. "I need a lucky goal, any kind of goal. I don't care how it goes in. I'm in the box trying to fashion an opportunity and now it's about scoring.

"It's good to have these games in quick succession and now we've got the chance to get the right result in the next game and hopefully we can use Saturday's game as a boost like we did when we did well against Chelsea."

United are unbeaten in four away from home but have found the going slightly harder at the Boleyn Ground, a fact Cole puts down to opponents' tactics when they visit east London. "We were better second half against Villa and hopefully we can do that again next time.

"When teams come to Upton Park they sit back and try to hit us on the counterattack. I think we have problems breaking teams down and we have to try and work on fashioning chances. We had a few at the weekend which we should have scored. We just need to keep plugging away and doing our best to get the right results."