West Bromwich 0 West Ham United 1: Injury puts Ashton in doubt for Cup final

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The Independent Online

Dean Ashton limped out of West Ham United's victory over relegated West Bromwich Albion ­ and possibly out of the FA Cup final against Liverpool in 12 days' time ­ after suffering a hamstring injury during the first half at The Hawthorns last night. Ashton pulled up sharply and sat down in discomfort before departing.

Alan Pardew, the West Ham manager, explained that his £7m club-record buy had felt a "twinge in the hamstring". He added that the striker was "potentially a doubt for the final".

"Dean was very motivated to play because the forwards is one area where we're very strong and there's a bit of pressure on who will start up front," Pardew said. "We've already lost Hayden Mullins [to suspension], so we can't afford to lose any more of our big players, and Dean certainly comes into that category." West Ham, who also have Anton Ferdinand and James Collins under treatment for groin injuries and who lost Matthew Etherington during the warm-up, scored late in the first half through their captain, Nigel Reo-Coker.

Etherington complained of a sore abductor, but Pardew expected he would be fit to face Liverpool in the Millennium Stadium. Before that, West Ham receive Tottenham on Sunday in the final Premiership fixture. "Ideally I'd like to have played my Cup final side, but I don't think I've got any chance of doing that now," said Pardew.

Even with a depleted line-up ­ Pardew had only three of his probable Cardiff XI on the pitch at the start of the second half ­ West Ham were good enough to seal a top-10 finish and add to an Albion run that has now brought them just three of the last 36 points available.

On the final whistle, sections of the normally supportive Albion crowd stayed to chant for the dismissal of Bryan Robson. One fan raised a placard proclaiming: 'Taxi 4 Robson'.

However, the Albion manager said he was "expecting a lot worse" and confirmed that he had been assured by the chairman, Jeremy Peace, that his job was safe.

Not for the first time, his side's finishing betrayed a dearth of confidence. Christian Dailly obligingly rolled the ball straight to Kanu after eight minutes, but the Nigerian snatched at the chance and drove the ball over. Nathan Ellington sent a late diving header narrowly wide, while Robson claimed, somewhat in the face of the video evidence, that Graham Poll had denied his team "two blatant penalties". He added plaintively: "Over the past three months, the referees have killed us."

The goal arrived four minutes before half-time after Bobby Zamora left Steve Watson trailing on the right and saw Curtis Davies go to ground before him as he cut inside. Reo-Coker ran on to on the ball by the penalty spot, a first-time shot bringing his fifth goal of the season. The mood of the Albion faithful was encapsulated when the PA announcer told them that two lifelong fans were watching their final match before emigrating to Australia. The ripple of laughter suggested that a few morecraved a similar escape route.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Albrechtsen, Davies, Watson, Robinson; Gera, Wallwork, Quashie, Greening; Kanu, Ellington. Substitutes not used: Hoult (gk), Martinez, Carter, Nicholson, Inamoto. West Ham United (4-4-2): Hislop; Dailly (Konchesky, 73), Gabbidon, Ward, Scaloni; Newton, Fletcher, Reo-Coker, Reid; Zamora (Harewood, 72), Ashton (Sheringham, 23). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Katan.

Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

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