Hammers look to Cole and Co to help carry burden of escaping drop

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The Independent Football

West Ham United, off the bottom of the Premier League for the first time since October, take on Everton today determined to make their Boxing Day victory at Fulham the start of their climb out of trouble.

Two clinically taken goals by Carlton Cole made the difference at Craven Cottage, along with a surprise return for Freddie Sears, who was recalled early from his loan spell at Scunthorpe United.

Both Cole and Sears made the most of the opportunities presented to them in west London, and they are optimistic that the squad as a whole can seize the chance to become only the second team in the 18-year history of the Premier League to avoid relegation having spent Christmas at the bottom of the table.

Cole said: "We haven't got time, that is our problem, and every game counts now. This is a massive platform. I've said to some of my team-mates that things can change in the Christmas period, if we win two or three we will be challenging to get up the table."

Midfielder Sears has returned to the club he has supported all his life determined to help their recovery. "As a West Ham fan it's hard to see the club where they are," he said. "I want West Ham to do well and to see them not doing as well as they should be is difficult. They are some great players here and they should be well up the table. Now is the time to kick on."

The outstanding contributions at Craven Cottage of Cole, Sears, and Matthew Upson in defence lifted some of the burden of responsibility from the shoulders of Scott Parker, who at times this season has been the sole glimmer of light in a struggling team. Parker's performance at Fulham did not stand out, which speaks volumes for the way the rest of the team played.

In recent weeks it is a message that has been drummed into the squad by the manager, Avram Grant: that they cannot rely on Parker to dig them out of trouble every week.

The West Ham coach Wally Downes said: "We sat the whole squad down and explained to them that we had 10 games in 30 days, including cup games. There are about 22 of them that we're going to be using over the next 10 games so as much as Scott Parker is important to us, we need all of them to perform at the highest level."

Everton have Steven Pienaar and Mikel Arteta back from injury and suspension respectively.