No pain, no gain for Cole

Carlton Cole might not be 100 per cent fit, but he is feeling good about West Ham United's future.

The England striker made a game-changing impact after being introduced as a half-time substitute in Saturday's 2-0 npower Championship win at Hull City, providing vital assists for Sam Baldock and Jack Collison.

The No9 is playing in pain after feeling a medial knee ligament problem in the 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace last month, but showed no ill-effects at the KC Stadium.

Cole played the central role in a revised 4-3-3 formation introduced by manager Sam Allardyce at half-time, flicking on Mark Noble's corner for Baldock's 49th-minute opener before sliding a perfect pass through for Collison's clincher eight minutes later.

"I think I showed quality at the right time," he told West Ham TV. "We were disappointed on the back of the last result against Bristol City and wanted to come out and show that we can win games well.

"The first half wasn't pretty and the second half wasn't pretty either, but we got in the right positions at the right times to score the right goals at the right times. That's what we're about at the moment and even if we have to play ugly, it's nice to win games.

"Baldy was in the right place at the right time and he's the sort of striker we need in the box. It's nice to play up front with someone like that because they're always on the shoulder of the defender who is always worried about where he is. He drags defenders out of the way and makes my job easier than playing up front alone.

"John Carew and Freddie Piquionne will tell you the same - it's nice to play up front with a small guy sometimes if the manager wants to switch it up. It's nice to have that option and it gives a striker greater confidence to know that someone is there with him pestering the defenders.

"For the second goal, it was a great run from Jack and he made up my mind really. I just had to get it on a plate for him, but you can always scuff them up and get them wrong, but thankfully I got the right weight on it and he got through for a one-on-one and put it away. I'd have been proud of that finish."

Cole revealed that his fitness issues had restricted his time on the training pitch in recent weeks, but the 28-year-old is hopeful he will regain full-fitness and the goalscoring form he showed in the opening weeks of the season before too long.

"I don't need rest. I need to train. I think I've only had one training session for the past month and a half. I've been called upon and have tried to put in good performances in the last two games and it's been really hard to get match-fit.

"You don't realise how long a month really is until you get back on the field. It's really hard to get back into the swing of things, but the manager is feeding me in nicely and John and Freddie have done a great job while I've been away and obviously Sam is scoring goals emphatically.

"As everyone knows, I've had a knee problem but that hasn't been the problem. I twinged my medial knee ligament against Crystal Palace and ever since then it's been niggling. It's not my main injury that everyone knows about - it's something totally different - so I've just got to keep on top of it and it will fade away with time.

"I'm still playing with a little bit of pain but it's not that bad at the moment. It's obviously frustrating but as any footballer will tell you, you've just got to work hard and get back to full fitness and it will pay off in the end. That's the main thing.

"We've got great cover here, so it's not as if I had to be rushed back. The manager has understood the situation and he has done brilliantly with me. He's brought me back slowly and hopefully I can get back to the form I was in before Christmas comes.

"I really want to get some more goals. I had a couple of chances on Saturday that perhaps people didn't see as chances but I did. I know what I've got to do."

While Cole did not score himself, his assists helped West Ham to maintain their hold on second place in the table - five points behind leaders Southampton and a point clear of third-placed Middlesbrough.

With a trip to struggling Coventry City and home games against Derby County and Burnley next on the fixture list, the forward believes the Hammers are ready to strengthen their position.

"We've got the right options up front and the right players to push each other to do well for the team and get us up to the top of the league. Right now, we're trying to stay in touch with Southampton because they're doing brilliantly at the moment. We just need to keep the progress up and win games.

"We're on track and that's the main thing. We were very disappointed about the Bristol City game, because if we'd just got one goal there it would have been brilliant. We just need to keep in touch and stay in the top two until Christmas and then see where we can go from there."