Manager on Monday

Sam Allardyce praised his squad's strength in depth after West Ham United extended their unbeaten run to five games following the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday.

Allardyce elected to start with the in-form strike partnership of Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, who have scored nine league goals between them, but despite being on top for the majority of the game, the Hammers were unable to break the deadlock. Big Sam sought to change that by bringing on Carlton Cole and Andy Carroll as second-half substitutes, with the latter making his first appearance of the season after returning from an ankle injury.

"Our strength in depth is a real asset," Big Sam explained. "Now we have four strikers available it's given us the opportunity to change the system when we lulled a bit in the second half.

"That ability to change the personnel allowed us to give the fans an exciting finish to the game and I think that will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season. The only thing was while our finishing was good, their keeper was even better."

Speaking about Carroll's return to first-team football, the manager said that while he was delighted to see the powerful striker back on the pitch, he stressed that it would take several games before he is back to full fitness.

"He's still five or six games away from being fully fit. It's pre-season for him really, so we'll gradually increase his pitch time and see how he copes and how quickly he recovers.

"We need to be careful that we don't rush him back too quickly because we don't want to risk him getting injured again. Thankfully our squad is working well at the moment and that gives me the freedom to slowly work him back into the side. We'll take each week as it comes and go by a game by game basis.

"It's great to see him back out there. He loves playing football so to be out for such a long period was very frustrating for him. He's worked incredibly hard to get back fit and he's back ahead of schedule, which is excellent.

"It also goes to show his desire and hunger to play football. I think he demonstrated that in the few minutes he was on. We also have Coley fit and looking good. Valencia and Sakho are looking better and better as a partnership the more they play together."