Carroll is still on the return to full match fitness, but he was named in Sam Allardyce’s starting XI on Saturday as West Ham travelled to Everton.
Having completed a number of Under-21 fixtures on his route to recovery, and making one substitute appearance in the Premier League this season, the former Liverpool striker was not entirely out of his depth, but there is no doubt that he was rushed back to competitive action to compensate for the losses of Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia.
Despite playing below full fitness, the 25-year-old put in a solid performance, registering the highest number of shots by a single player in the game, and winning 15 aerial duels - also a game high. Although he failed to get on the scoresheet - with Mauro Zarate registering the Hammers' only goal in the 2-1 defeat - Carroll’s performance shows promise for the remainder of the season.
Whilst many would suspect that Sakho and Valencia would walk back into the starting XI on their return from injury, Carroll is showing the kind of form that could see him stake a claim in Allardyce’s plans, and the manager is keen to see the forward take the opportunity presented to him with the absence of the Irons’ attacking duo.
Speaking to the official West Ham website, Allardyce said: “We didn't want to play him for 90 minutes as he's not quite ready for 90 minutes but because of circumstances it had to be that. He coped with it well and we know he's going to get better the more match fit he gets.
“With the opportunities of other strikers putting pressures on Andy he's got to get on top of his game. The way Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho have played this year, they've put big pressure on Andy.”
Carroll has been plagued by persistent injury problems since his £15 million transfer to the Boleyn Ground, with an ankle ligament problem suffered in pre-season the occurrence keeping him out of action at the start of this campaign. Allardyce spoke of his confidence that the 25-year-old will finally be over any reoccurrence of the same problem, suggesting that the work he has done over his break should allow him to remain injury free for the near future.
The coach added: “We hope this final operation will be one of the major reasons for him not having the same injury problems as he's had over the last couple of years.”