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By ESPN Staff

More England frustration for unlucky Ashton

Dean Ashton's England dream is back on hold despite his two goals in 10 minutes that kicked off West Ham's Premier League season with a 2-1 win over Wigan in front of England boss Fabio Capello at Upton Park.

But manager Alan Curbishley is in no doubt the now not-so-big, bottle-blond striker will bounce back again.

Both Curbishley and Ashton were initially convinced the injury that forced the new slim-line front-man off 17 minutes from the end yesterday was no more than cramp - after he pulled up sharply having ballooned a hugely-ambitious long-range free-kick over the crossbar.

But a later inspection revealed a calf problem and Ashton, who finally won his first England cap when Capello picked him for the friendly against Trinidad and Tobago at the end of last season, will have a scan tomorrow to discover the full extent of the damage.

It certainly will not be as bad, though, as the broken ankle that kept him out for the whole of the 2006-7 season after he was hurt while training with Steve McClaren's England squad almost exactly two years ago when on the verge of his senior international breakthrough.

But with Capello declaring that after Wednesday's Wembley date with the Czech Republic 'experiments are over' for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers, there can be no doubt Ashton - whose England place goes, ironically, to Wigan's Emile Heskey - has suffered another cruel blow.

Curbishley, though, insists: 'He's got so much ability, brings other people into the game and is a very good finisher, so we'll see. If he had been pain-free he would have been available for England but now he's got more hard work to do.

'When I turned up at West Ham 18 months ago, Deano wasn't even training. I've only seen him for the last 12 months but he's worked hard and done all that was asked of him.

'When you look at him, he's a naturally big fellow but now much leaner. People told him he should shed a little weight and maybe the penny has dropped.

'All I can say is we're delighted he's got his first two goals for us this season and hopefully he'll be back getting some more before long.

'With (Craig) Bellamy and (Kieron) Dyer still out the last thing we need is Dean Ashton having another setback.'

Despite the new worry, Ashton - who was eased slowly into his comeback by Curbishley last season and responded with an end-of-term goal flourish of five in eight games, remains upbeat. He said: 'I was really pleased with my goals - especially to get them so early.

'And the fact that they were the ones that won the match was really nice. Now we'll have to see what happens with the injury.'

In the end, though, Curbishley - quoted as bookmakers' joint-favourite to be the first Premier League manager out of a job this season - was indebted to his defence for lifting some of that pressure.


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