West Ham boss keen to protect Ashton

West Ham boss Alan Curbishley insists Dean Ashton is still some way from full fitness, despite his impressive showing at Newcastle.

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Ashton scored the Hammers' lone goal in the 3-1 defeat and Curbishley said: "He needs some more football, he needs as much as he can get.

"If you had seen Dean three weeks ago at Reading and last week against Middlesbrough and now today, he is slowly getting stronger and stronger."

Asked what he would tell Steve McClaren if he inquired about Ashton, Curbishley said: "I would just say to him he has been out a year and a bit.

"Steve McClaren has been to our games and he has seen Dean.

"They have been watching all the games and they will have seen Dean has slowly got stronger and sharper.

"We will have to see. Two weeks is a long time. Anything can happen."

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