West Ham United have eased their striker crisis with the signing of Croatian forward Mladen Petric on a free transfer less than 24 hours after record signing Andy Carroll suffered a setback in his return from injury.

Carroll picked up a heel injury in The Hammers' win over Reading on the final day of last season and was expected to return for the weekend visit to Southampton after stepping up his recovery in training.

But a new foot problem picked up on Monday will prolong Carroll's spell on the sidelines and throws into doubt his participation in England's World Cup qualifying double-header against Montenegro and Poland next month.

"West Ham United can confirm Andy Carroll suffered an injury to his right foot during his return to full training today," a club statement read.

"Although it is in the same part of his foot as his previous injury, it is a new injury and therefore there will be no prognosis until he has seen a specialist."

While West Ham are unable to confirm the full extent of the injury, the signing of free agent Petric, released by Premier League rivals Fulham at the end of last season, suggests the former Newcastle United and Liverpool forward could be set for another lengthy spell out.

The 32 year old Petric scored five goals in 23 appearances for Fulham last season but was among 12 players released at the end of last term prior to the signing of Darren Bent from Aston Villa.

"I'm very happy, excited and looking forward to training with the team and to the first game," Petric said. "I know [the Premier League] and I'm happy to be back in the Premier League, because it's a fantastic league and I'm really looking forward to being part of this team and this Club.

"There are a lot of good players here and I'm happy to be part of such a good team and I hope we can all celebrate my first goal for West Ham as soon as possible.

"I didn't speak to Sam [Allardyce] until today but I've heard a lot about him and I spoke to Guy Demel, who I know from my time at Hamburg and I'm sure I'll have a good time here.

"I remember playing at West Ham last year and it was a very tough game for us at Fulham. I think we lost 3-0! It's not easy to come here [as the away side] and take points away."

Despite the signing of Petric offsetting the latest injury to Carroll, manager Sam Allardyce is still left with just one other recognised striker in the form of Modibo Maiga, a move for former striker Carlton Cole falling through following a failed medical.

Carroll became West Ham's record signing in the summer despite enduring an injury plagued season at Upton Park during the last campaign while on loan from Liverpool.

He scored seven goals in 24 appearances for West Ham as the club achieved a 10<sup>th place finish in the Premier league.