Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Leyton Orient 1 West Ham United 1

Dean Ashton scored his first goal for West Ham in almost a year as the Hammers claimed a 1-1 draw in yesterday's pre-season friendly against Leyton Orient at The Matchroom Stadium. The England striker hit an unstoppable shot from 30 yards after quarter of an hour, the ball swerving past Glenn Morris in goal. The Orient keeper was subsequently replaced after suffering a head injury following an aerial collision with Callum Davenport, and in a very competitive first half, Adam Boyd fired narrowly wide for the Coca-Cola League One club before scoring a stunning equaliser after 20 minutes. The 25-year-old, a new signing from Luton, sent a 25-yard volley dipping over England goalkeeper Robert Green to mark his debut for the east London club in style.

In the second half Kyel Reid sent a fierce shot over the bar for the visitors, before Ashton failed to claim his second of the game when he contrived to miss a glaring opportunity when he headed over from four yards following Matthew Etherington's cut-back. Etherington then provided a cross for Lee Bowyer, whose header was kept out by substitute goalkeeper Stuart Nelson - before Ashton's left-footed shot went just wide of the goal in the final minute.

Alan Curbishley had made the decision earlier in the week to split his first team squad between this week's two friendly matches, this testimonial match for O's manager Martin Ling and against MK Dons tonight. The plan is to ensure that the majority of senior players get through their first 90 minutes of the pre-season build-up, with just three more friendly matches to play before the new Premier League campaign kicks off against Manchester City on August 11. As a result, the travelling support got a lengthy look at several of the players hopeful of making an impression this coming season. Anton Ferdinand joined Davenport in central defence and was an assured performer all night as his partner suffered several lapses. Indeed, Davenport and was fortunate not to concede a penalty for a clear shirt-pull when he got turned on the edge of the penalty area. John Pantsil gave another energetic performance and linked up well with Reid down the right-hand side, as he did in the opening friendly against Dagenham & Redbridge. On the opposite flank, George McCartney put in a very solid display and supported Matthew Etherington effectively. Hayden Mullins shared central midfield duties with Bowyer and both players put in neat, if uninspired, performances. Up front a weary looking Ashton showed some good touches but an overall lack of sharpness, while Carlton Cole was largely anonymous save for a blistering 12-yard shot which went just over the bar in the early stages.

Etherington was easily West Ham's best performer on the night and he admits that the hard work Hammers have put in during the first three weeks of the pre-season build-up has benefited his overall sharpness. "I felt good against Orient," he said. "The legs were a bit heavy towards the end, but it was very tough in Austria last week and I think the lads were feeling that a bit. We worked very hard out there in hot, humid conditions, but I think the lads will benefit from it in time. I felt sharper at the start tonight and hopefully I'll be up to full speed in a couple of weeks. I think the worst of the hard work is behind us now, we're on to the ball-work and short, sharp stuff, so I'm sure the performances will start to improve as we get used to that. I'm raring to go now, ready to fight for my place and looking forward to the new season."

Alan Curbishley seemed content with the general display but clearly had other things on his mind. Speaking after the game the West Ham manager insisted on discussing Craig Bellamy and how he is convinced the player will do his talking on the pitch this season. "It's about time, for all sorts of reasons, that Craig Bellamy let his football do the talking because he's an excellent talent. We've already seen that in the two weeks he has been at the club. He's a good player and I'm sure the West Ham fans are going to see him perform. He has got pace, aggression and is a good finisher."

West Ham United: Green, Pantsil, Ferdinand, Davenport, McCartney, Reid (Stokes), Bowyer, Mullins, Etherington, Cole and Ashton.

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