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With Andy Carroll still injured, West Ham boss Sam Allardyce is looking for a reaction from his other forwards

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»West Ham boss Sam Allardyce has confirmed that there is no chance of an early return for big striker Andy Carroll.

But he has called on fellow front men Carlton Cole and Modibo Maiga to battle it out for Carroll’s place and show that the Liverpool loanee will not be too badly missed.

Stories that Carroll was set for a miracle return against Sunderland were scotched by Allardyce after Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Norwich City.

“The leg is improving rapidly and so day-by-day we will be assessing the situation,” said the boss.

“I don’t think Sunderland is any chance at all. At the very best we will try and get him back for the last game before the next gap in the fixtures, but I think that is still a long shot at the moment.”

That would mean the Upton Park showdown with Arsenal on October 6, but meanwhile, Allardyce wants his two other strikers to show what they can do.

“Cole and Maiga are in big competition for places while Andy is out,” confirmed the West Ham boss.

“They have got to get up to speed and help us try and win games, starting against Sunderland.”

Cole was given the nod at Carrow Road, but was replaced by Maiga just before the hour.

Allardyce thinks that Cole has nothing to prove.

“Carlton knows all about the Premier League,” he said. “He has got stiff competition because we have brought in a centre forward here that Liverpool paid £35 million for.

“So is he going to shrivel up and die or is he going to roll up his sleeves and fight? In this league competition has got to bring the best out of you.”

There are many who suggest that it will be difficult for Allardyce to play Maiga in that lone striking role, but it is something he quickly dismisses.

“It is not difficult for him because we changed the shape of our team,” he said.

“We used the Spanish system and went 4-2-3-1, so Kevin Nolan plays in the hole supporting the front man, which is where he likes to be.

“I don’t consider that Maiga will have any trouble playing on his own, because you know why?

“They don’t play two up front in France and he was a big scorer over there.”

Whoever he plays on Saturday, Allardyce is certainly happy with his squad and in particular a defence that has kept three clean sheets in four league games.

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