Ilunga returns for a Hammers reunion

HERITA ILUNGA could play against former club West Ham United this afternoon – just 24 hours after re-signing for Doncaster Rovers.

Ilunga, who was released by the Hammers six weeks ago, spent three months on loan with Rovers earlier in the season.

The former Congo international, 29, had recently been training with Leyton Orient but signed a one-month contract yesterday after left-back Tommy Spurr suffered a groin injury in the midweek victory at Nottingham Forest.

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Striker Frederic Piquionne, who joined Rovers on loan from West Ham this week, is not allowed to play today but manager Dean Saunders openly admits that he owes a debt of gratitude to Hammers manager Sam Allardyce.

“Sam’s helped us with both Piquionne and Ilunga and I need to thank him for that,” he said. “I think he’s a brilliant manager who has a proven formula that’s worked down the years. Every time he talks, I listen.”

Rovers moved to within three points of safety courtesy of victory over Forest – the team currently occupying 21st spot – and, perhaps significantly, still have a game in hand.

But the Hammers, who are second in the table, will be a totally different proposition looking to maintain the pressure on leaders Southampton.

“We’ve got to do the fundamentals right and not shoot ourselves in the foot,” stressed Saunders. “The players have got to work hard and we have got to have a bit of luck and a bit of craft.

“We’re taking things directly from training and applying them correctly in games and the performances have been good for a while. It’s about learning from our mistakes as a group and that’s how we’ll get things sorted.

“The players who went there on Tuesday night are more than capable and that will be the message I’ll be sending out again,” he added. “West Ham have got Premier League players right the way through the club – but we have, too, if you look at the team we picked on Tuesday.”

Saunders describes his side’s schedule as ‘ridiculous’ and today’s game is the third of nine in March. “I’ve got to try and see things before they happen. You’re going to miss four or five games if you are out for a couple of weeks so we can’t go in under strength or under prepared.”