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By ESPN Staff

Johnson surprised by rapid ascent

Liverpool defender Glen Johnson admits he is shocked at how quickly the Reds have been able to climb up the Premier League table, after Saturday's 3-0 victory over West Ham propelled them to within three points of fifth-placed Bolton and six of fourth-placed Manchester City.

• Jolly: Woeful Hammers provide no test
• Hodgson denies Johnson rift

Having endured their worst start to a campaign since 1953-54 with six points from the opening eight matches, the Reds have now accrued 13 from their last six - a record bettered only by Manchester United over the same half-a-dozen games.

And though talk of Liverpool returning to the top four would appear a touch premature, Johnson says that the apparent unwillingness of those teams currently at the top of the table to pull away means that the Reds have a chance to push on and catch those above them.

"We are still quite close to the top and if we can build on this performance then I'm sure we can be close to where we want to be,'' Johnson said.

"It surprises me that this win has taken us to within sight of fourth place. Considering some of the points we have dropped, you'd have thought we would be out of it already, to be honest, but we're in there.

"Everyone's beating everyone at the moment and the league's really open. That means if we can put a run together we can get up there where we aim to be.''

Just over a week ago a four-match unbeaten league run - which had lifted the club out of the unfamiliar surroundings of the relegation zone - was ended in dismal fashion at Stoke.

But Johnson is hoping that, following the Reds' victory over his former club West Ham - in which he scored the opening goal, Roy Hodgson's side can now put together another strong sequence of results.

"The West Ham win was an important result because we can start again looking for another unbeaten run like that last one,'' Johnson said. "We are looking to go on another run, to build on this victory again, and we showed good form out there, especially in the first half.

"We believe that if we can put another run together we can be back up there challenging for the top four places. Every team has been dropping points where you wouldn't expect them to. That shows how competitive the league is, but it has given us a chance to still challenge, despite some of our results.''

Meanwhile, midfielder Joe Cole is set for a comeback in the weekend's Premier League fixture at Tottenham after missing the last five matches with a hamstring injury, according to Hodgson.

"Joe should be back for Sunday,'' Hodgson said. "We were hoping he would be back to face West Ham, but it has taken that little bit longer. Joe is not that far away really, so hopefully he will have recovered in time for Tottenham.

"Hamstring injuries are tricky and I'm afraid we can only rely on what the sports science people tell us, and if they say he needs more time we just have to wait.''


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