Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Back To Basics

Dean Ashton has been ruled out of action for up to six weeks after scans confirmed the striker has a sprained medial knee ligament. The forward was yesterday forced to withdraw from the England squad to face Estonia and Russia in Euro 2008 qualifiers on Saturday and Wednesday week respectively after being hurt late in Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa. Head physiotherapist George Cooper confirmed the extent of Ashton's injury on the official site. "We received the results of Dean's scan and they were what we expected which is that he had sprained the upper third of his medial ligament," he said. "In the majority of cases it will take up to six weeks for full recovery." The injury is a bitter blow for the 23-year-old whose previous call into the England squad for an August 2006 friendly against Greece saw him pick up an ankle injury in training. On a more positive note, Craig Bellamy began running again last Friday after an operation on a groin injury and is to join up with the Wales squad ahead of their own qualifiers against Cyprus and San Marino, although he is set to sit out the first fixture.

Meanwhile, West Ham have announced that young winger Hogan Ephraim has extended his loan at Queen's Park Rangers for a third month. The 19-year-old Academy graduate has been on loan at the Championship club since August and has made nine appearances in his first two months at Loftus Road. His most recent outing came last night with Ephraim impressing in the 1-0 home defeat of Norwich City - the club's first victory of the season. Ephraim's loan will see him stay with QPR until November 6. Two other West Ham players are also out on loan. Scotland defender Christian Dailly, who is in his country's squad for the Euro 2008 qualifiers at home against Ukraine this Saturday and next Wednesday's trip to Georgia, is at Championship club Southampton until 22 October while 18-year-old goalkeeper David Blackmore is on loan at Conference South side Thurrock.

Finally, Hayden Mullins believes the international break will allow West Ham United to get "back to basics" as they look to push on from a respectable mid-table position. The versatile midfielder was naturally disappointed with the 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday but insisted: "I think we have to get back on the training field, work hard and get back to basics. What we were doing right before we went on this bad run. We had a very good record. We want to get back to that." Once the international programme is out of the way, West Ham entertain Sunderland at home on Sunday 21 October before a trip to Portsmouth six days later and then the Carling Cup fourth-round tie at Coventry City on Tuesday 30 October. According to Mullins, there is every chance of taking league points and reaching the last eight of the cup competition. "We know there a couple of good games coming up for us later this month and we're looking to win them," he added.

Looking back to Saturday, the midfielder paid tribute to the effort shown despite conceding from a free-kick he felt was harshly awarded. "We did really well in the second half, we were the much better side and we're disappointed to come out of that losing. It's just a reminder that we have to take our chances and keep it a bit tighter at the back. I think we always looked dangerous but didn't get that bit of luck that we needed. That was the decisive factor. Once you get half a chance, Carlton Cole had one, Lee Bowyer and Matty Etherington, you have to take them, which we didn't today. We'll be going back to the training field and working on that."

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