Andy Carroll could be regularly used as a substitute by West Ham with Sam Allardyce uncertain about letting striker off the leash

The Hammers were held by Aston Villa on Saturday

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Andy Carroll, the England forward, could be used as a West Ham super sub until the end of the year after looking like a match-winner when he came on for his first appearance of the season, the goalless draw against Aston Villa on Saturday. But his manager, Sam Allardyce, will not risk any further setbacks for his key man.

Carroll, who did not start last season until January because of injury and sustained ankle ligament damage on the club’s pre-season tour of New Zealand this summer, left the bench in injury time at the end of second half, nearly scored twice and was a magnet for the ball. There was a sense that had he come on earlier West Ham would have made it four successive wins.

But Allardyce said: “We must not think he is ready now. It is me saying, ‘You are in pre-season, if I put you on any quicker or sooner and you get injured again that will be my fault, not yours.’ I am not willing to do that because the squad we have today is working fantastically well. Slowly but surely with Andy. We will gauge it each week.”

For Villa’s manager, Paul Lambert, the result represented another form of comeback as his men ended a run of six successive defeats, a 50-year low for the club in the top flight. “The lads are not young any more, they can handle [the pressure]. I’ve never felt them to be jittery,” he said.