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By ESPN Staff

Ashton hopeful of making Hammers return

West Ham's medical staff are confident of Dean Ashton playing a part in the club's battle against relegation despite a setback in the striker's recovery from a broken ankle.

The 23-year-old has been to see Alan Watson, a specialist at the BiMAL Medical and Sports Rehabilitation Clinic in Chiswick, and needed an injection to solve a complication in his rehabilitation.

Ashton suffered the injury at the start of the season while on England duty and was initially earmarked for a January return, but he is yet to train with the first-team squad and is expected to need five weeks of full training before he plays.

'He (Watson) discovered an area of scar tissue that was impinging on the front of Dean's ankle, causing him discomfort when running at a certain pace,' said head physiotherapist Steve Allen on official website whufc.com.

'This has subsequently been injected under an ultra-sound scan, and Dean is now to rest for four days before being re-assessed at BiMAL, when he hope he will be given the all-clear to resume his fitness work and push on to full training.'

West Ham released a statement insisting Ashton should return to full training 'sooner rather than later' to bolster a West Ham side which has only scored 17 goals in the Barclays Premiership this season.

The clash against Liverpool tonight offers a chance of getting out of the bottom three but could also see them five points adrift from safety, depending on how Wigan fare at Reading.

Liverpool's trip to Upton Park sees last season's FA Cup finalists meet, but little has gone right for the Hammers since they lost in Cardiff on penalties.

Despite struggling for goals, Alan Curbishley has distanced himself from a bid for Darren Bent from Charlton, the club where the West Ham boss spent 15 years in charge before leaving at the end of last season.

'We have not made any bid for Darren Bent,' said the Hammers boss. 'It was made quite clear to us by Charlton Athletic that the player was not for sale, and so that is the end of the matter.'

Curbishley will be without new signing Lucas Neill against Liverpool.

The Australia defender will be out for two to three weeks after an 'inversion sprain' to his ankle suffered in his debut, the FA Cup fourth-round defeat to Watford at the weekend.