Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Return Of The Z-Man

Bobby Zamora scored a hat-trick as West Ham United came from behind to record an emphatic 4-1 victory over Birmingham City at the Boleyn Ground yesterday evening. Having notched a goal in a friendly game against Queen's Park Rangers last week, Zamora showed he is getting back towards full fitness with a finely-taken treble in an all-action performance over 90 minutes. It was the first proper outing for the striker since a Carling Cup game away to Bristol Rovers on 28 August. All three of his goals came in the final half-hour of the contest after reserve-team captain Jack Collison had cancelled out Stefan Milojevic's opener just before half-time. Kevin Keen named a strong team for the game, with Jimmy Walker in goal, Jonathan Spector commanding at left-back and Julien Faubert an impressive figure on the right-side of midfield.

"It has been a while," a delighted Zamora reflected. "To get a full 90 minutes and score a hat-trick against a good team is nice, having got 65 minutes last week. They had a lot of pros playing, so to do well was good. We worked hard and thankfully I scored a few goals," said Zamora, before joking that the referee would not give him the match ball despite his hat-trick feat. He also had a word for the fans who were "right behind me", adding: "It was nice to give them something to cheer, thanks to them for coming out." All three of Zamora's goals were different. The first on 58 minutes saw neat control, a quick turn and a blasted effort into the net. The second was a cute flick from Faubert's low cross to the near post and the third was a powerful but precise header from another cross by the flying Frenchman on the right wing. Faubert also came through the full 90 minutes and Zamora said his team-mate performed "brilliantly".

"He is in exactly the same situation as me," the forward added. "He has had a few bits and pieces since coming back. He has been sub for the first team but for him to get another 90 minutes is the main thing. He put in a few brilliant balls and made my job a lot easier." While naturally delighted with the goals, Zamora stressed the "main thing was to get the fitness". He added: "It has been a long time. I don't want to go into the first team not fully fit and that is the main thing. I don't want to go out and not do the team justice and not do myself justice really. Making sure I am fit enough is important. I want to take it slowly, I don't want to break down. I want to make sure I am 100 per cent before I go back and try and fight for my place in the first team."

Zamora's return can not come sooner enough for a team who's current strikers are, by their own admittance, struggling to gel. "Me and 'Deano' are going to be working on our partnership all next week because we've got a break," revealed Carlton Cole. "We'll be looking at the prozone stats and at our previous games and what we could do better. We need to work on things like our movement, because sometimes we find ourselves in the same positions, and our communication which is not up to scratch." Cole has five goals to Ashton's six this season, but if West Ham are to make a late claim for a European place, then the strikers are going to have to find their shooting boots, especially against the lower-placed teams like Wigan and Birmingham where both drew a blank. "Me and 'Deano' have already sat down and talked about it, and we'll start that relationship this week," insists Cole. "I've watched my own game, I watch it every week after the matches. Now I'm going to look at our partnership and see how we can improve."

Cole's own game has certainly improved a tremendous amount, and though it hasn't corresponded into a glut of goals, his efforts have certainly earned the respect of the West Ham fans, with Ashton finding himself on the wrong end of the crowd's comments at the moment. "My game is my hold-up play, which I was really worried about. I wasn't holding the ball up before, but that is working well for me now and I've looked to capitalise on that and get more shots off in a game," explained Cole. "I'm trying to work on creating space for others in the team. I know I attract players towards me because of my size, and that should help others in the team. I've been trying to play them in and I've got about seven assists this season. The goal against Birmingham was a prime example. I was trying to hold off two or three players, I flicked it on and Freddie got in - these are the kind of things I do well." The fans are certainly appreciative of his efforts, emphasised by the booing that rang out around Upton Park when he was substituted just after the hour in the last game. "It is better than being booed like earlier in the season," he smiled, remembering some of the stick he had received from the home faithful. "It's a good sign for me - I'm very happy that the fans appreciate my work rate. I just feel all I need to do is get a few more goals to reward that."

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