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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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By ESPN Staff

Friendlies: Ashton hits hat-trick in Hammers win

England striker Dean Ashton fired a hat-trick for West Ham as they warmed up for the new Premier League season with a 5-3 victory over Coca-Cola Championship side Ipswich at Portman Road on what was a busy night of pre-season action.

The opening 10 minutes were a goal frenzy, as Dean Ashton and Craig Bellamy scored to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

Owen Garvan levelled for Town in the 25th minute, but the Hammers went 3-2 up 12 minutes into the second half when Ashton fired home after a Kyel Reid shot was blocked.

The former Crewe and Norwich forward completed his hat-trick in the 73rd minute thanks to a calm finish from a Reid cross.

Reid then combined with Scott Parker to tee up David Noble, who blasted home West Ham's fifth from 25 yards - before Alan Lee pulled one back for Town.

Bolton leaked a late goal as they continued their pre-season preparations with a 1-1 draw against Greek outfit Aris at the Kleanthis Vikelides Stadium.

Grant McCann had given Gary Megson's a 1-0 lead nine minutes from full-time with a header from close range.

Wanderers substitute Blerim Dzemaili whipped in a dangerous cross which was glanced on to the bar by Kevin Nolan and the ball fell to McCann who nodded it home.

Bolton goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi made several top-class saves as Aris, who faced the Trotters in last season's UEFA Cup, pushed for an equaliser.

Their rearguard was eventually breached in injury time when Spanish striker Javito was sent clear and slid the ball beyond Al Habsi.

Meanwhile, first-half strikes from Papa Bouba Diop and Jermain Defoe helped Portsmouth claim a narrow victory over Oxford in tonight's pre-season friendly at the Kassam Stadium.

Senegal international Diop put Pompey ahead in the 31st minute, after he latched on to a Djimi Traore cross from the left and steered the ball home from close range.

Harry Redknapp's side doubled their advantage moments before the break when Lassana Diarra cut open the Oxford defence with a neat through-ball - and Defoe slid the ball home.

Portsmouth had several other chances to add to their tally, and Niko Kranjcar went close with a 25-yard strike in the 77th minute.

But it was Oxford who made the final moments of the game interesting when Alex Fisher struck the ball past goalkeeper David James in injury time.

Elsewhere, England striker Dean Ashton fired a hat-trick for West Ham as they warmed up for the new Barclays Premier League season with a 5-3 victory over Coca-Cola Championship side Ipswich at Portman Road.

The opening 10 minutes were a goal frenzy, as Dean Ashton and Craig Bellamy scored to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

Owen Garvan levelled for Town in the 25th minute, but the Hammers went 3-2 up 12 minutes into the second half when Ashton fired home after a Kyel Reid shot was blocked.

The former Crewe and Norwich forward completed his hat-trick in the 73rd minute thanks to a calm finish from a Reid cross.

Reid then combined with Scott Parker to tee up David Noble, who blasted home West Ham's fifth from 25 yards - before Alan Lee pulled one back for Town.

Colchester's first game at the their new stadium ended in defeat, beaten 2-1 by La Liga outfit Athletic Bilbao.

Aritz Aduriz gave the Basque side the lead in the 15th minute, before Scott Vernon converted from the penalty spot in the 32nd minute to equalise.

But Bilbao secured victory when David Lopez also scored a penalty seven minutes from time to defeat the Coca-Cola Championship side.

Ben Joyce struck twice and Bill Paynter also found the net to help Swindon claim a 3-0 victory 3-0 against Plymouth.

Alan Buckley used Grimsby's game at Brigg Town to watch four triallists - but despite being handed a lead 15 minutes from time thanks to an own goal, they were held to a 1-1 draw.

Luke Waterfall grabbed two goals for Tranmere at Cammell Laird, but the non-league side scored two of their own to ensure the game ended all square.

One of Crewe's summer signings, Anthony Elding, converted from the spot to give the Railwaymen a 2-1 victory at Nantwich.

Chesterfield were held 1-1 by Sheffield FC, and a youthful Leeds side slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Guiseley.

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