Dan Coker's Match Preview
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Blast from the past
West Ham United have never met Doncaster Rovers in the FA Cup before. Indeed, the two teams haven’t previously met in any form of knockout competition, so today’s focus falls on a previous league encounter between the two clubs.
The Stargazers were number one with ‘I See The Moon’, Alastair Sim was in UK cinemas in An Inspector Calls and, in a month which also saw the births of Willie Thorne and Jimmy Nail, Ted Fenton’s West Ham United took on Peter Doherty’s Doncaster Rovers in a Second Division match on 20th March 1954. The Hammers won the match 2-1 in front of 14,655, courtesy of goals from 20-year-old winger Harry Hooper (pictured below) and Glaswegian inside-left John Dick. Irish centre-forward Fred Kearns made his 48th and final appearance for the Irons ahead of his move to Norwich – he had scored 16 goals for the club.
Doncaster would go on to finish 12th in the Second Division while the Hammers would end the 1953/54 season in 13th place. Leicester topped the Second Division, Wolves won the title and West Brom lifted the FA Cup.
West Ham United: Peter Chiswick, George Wright, Harry Kinsell, Derek Parker, Malcolm Allison, Danny McGowan, Harry Hooper, Dave Sexton, Fred Kearns, John Dick, Jimmy Andrews.
West Ham United and Doncaster Rovers have shared a decent number of players over the years. These include:
Goalkeepers: Stephen Bywater, Perry Suckling, Ike Tate, Tony Parks.
Defenders: Lucas Neill, Arthur Banner, Bill Green, Fred Shreeve, Rufus Brevett, Paul Marquis, Elliott Ward, Edward Wagstaff, Matthew Kilgallon, Albert Walker.
Midfielders: John Moncur, Stan Burton, Tommy Tippett, Ed Smithurst, Jack Kirkaldie, Josh Payne, Billy Linward, George Ratcliffe, Danny Williamson, Kevin Horlock.
Strikers: Jimmy Dyer, Fred Dell, Mike Newell, Brian Deane, Frederic Piquionne.
Grant McCann played for West Ham and managed Doncaster.
This week’s focus though is on a player who played for West Ham before moving to Doncaster. Herita Ilunga was born in Kinshasa, Zaire (now DR Congo) on 25th February 1982. He came through the ranks at Amiens in France before moving to Rennes. Ilunga, a left-back, left French football without making a senior appearance and moved to Espanyol, playing for their B team in the Spanish third division. Ilunga returned to France with Saint-Etienne in 2003 and spent four seasons at the club. He joined Toulouse in 2007 for a fee of £1.8m, briefly playing Champions League football with the club, before moving to England the following year.
The 26-year-old Ilunga joined Alan Curbishley’s West Ham United on a season-long loan in September 2008 – Curbishley resigned the day after Ilunga signed as George McCartney’s replacement. Ilunga made his debut under caretaker manager Kevin Keen on 13th September 2008 in a 3-2 defeat at West Brom. He played in every Premier League and FA Cup game under Gianfranco Zola in 2008/09, missing only the League Cup defeat at Watford. Ilunga scored his first goal for the Hammers in a 3-0 FA Cup third round win over Barnsley at Upton Park on 3rd January 2009. His second goal for the club also came in the FA Cup, an equaliser in a 1-1 home draw with Middlesbrough in the fifth round on 14th February 2009 – future Hammer Stewart Downing scored for the visitors in this match and also netted in the replay as Boro won 2-0 at the Riverside.
Ilunga made his loan move permanent for a fee of around £3m towards the end of the 2008/09 campaign as the Hammers recorded a ninth-placed finish. He scored his third and final goal for the club in a 3-1 League Cup third round defeat at Bolton on 22nd September 2009. The Irons struggled in 2009/10, finishing 17th – Ilunga was ruled out for the rest of the season after picking up an injury in February. By the time he returned at the start of the following season, Avram Grant had taken over the managerial reigns – he started ten league games in 2010/11 but none of them from January onwards after the loan signing of Wayne Bridge.
West Ham were relegated and Ilunga looked to have been given an opportunity to resurrect his Hammers career by new boss Sam Allardyce, who started him in the first five games of the 2011/12 season. A series of poor performances, however, led Allardyce to sign the player Ilunga had originally been brought in to replace as McCartney returned to the club for a second spell. Ilunga’s last game for the club was the 2-1 home defeat to Aldershot in the League Cup first round on 24th August 2011. Ilunga had scored three goals in 73 appearances for West Ham United – two of these three goals, both scored in the FA Cup, can be viewed in my video below.
With the signing of McCartney, initially on loan, and the alternative option of Matty Taylor, the Hammers were well covered at left-back resulting in the 29-year-old Ilunga joining fellow Championship side Doncaster in a three-month loan move. He made his debut for Dean Saunders’ Donny in a 3-0 defeat to Leeds at the Keepmoat Stadium and made 15 appearances during his loan spell. He returned to West Ham in January 2012 but his contract was terminated by mutual consent within less than a fortnight. Ilunga returned to Doncaster in March 2012, signing a short-term contract – he made four further appearances for Rovers, taking his total for the club to 19, without scoring. His final appearance for Doncaster came in a 4-0 loss at Leicester on 7th April 2012. The club were relegated in bottom place while the Hammers were promoted via the Play-Offs.
Ilunga was not retained by Doncaster at the end of the 2011/12 season and remained without a club until he signed for Ligue 1 side Rennes in January 2013. He spent six months with Carquefou in the third tier of French football the following year before moving to Creteil of Ligue 2 (second tier) in 2014. He retired in 2016, following Creteil’s relegation, after two seasons with the club. Ilunga, now 38, was appointed to the commission for training and development at the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in September 2017.
Tomorrow’s referee will be Merseyside-based Robert Jones, who will take on his third ever senior Hammers appointment – his only other matches involving West Ham’s first team were the 4-0 defeat at Oxford in the League Cup third round in September 2019 and, most recently, our 1-0 win over Fulham in November.
Jones has refereed one other FA Cup match this season, that being Manchester City’s 3-0 home win over Birmingham in the third round.
The VAR Official is Yorkshire-based Martin Atkinson.
Arthur Masuaku is on the sidelines for West Ham United.
Doncaster, currently fourth in League One, have beaten FC United of Manchester, Carlisle and Blackburn to reach this fourth round tie. 21-year-old goalkeeper Ellery Balcombe joined on loan from Brentford earlier this month. 25-year-old Welsh Under-21 international Joe Wright is back and available; 37-year-old centre-half Andy Butler is in his second spell at Doncaster and is also manager of the women’s side, Doncaster Rovers Belles. Tom Anderson, 27, is the captain and came through the ranks at Burnley. Cameron John, 21, is a product of Wolves’ Academy.
25-year-old Brad Halliday and 27-year-old Reece James formed the midfield pair in the last round at Blackburn, but both are naturally full-backs – the latter appeared as a substitute for Wigan when they knocked David Moyes’ West Ham out of the FA Cup at the fourth round stage in 2018 and is available after suspension. Jason Lokilo, 22, was born in Belgium and is of Congolese descent; he signed from Crystal Palace last year. 20-year-old Taylor Richards is on loan from Brighton and scored the winner in the previous round at Ewood Park. Elliot Simoes, 21, is an Angolan international currently on loan from Barnsley.
With Arsenal loanee Tyreece John-Jules ruled out for at least two months with a serious hamstring problem, manager Darren Moore could start 24-year-old Fejiri Okenabirhie up front – the England C international was also on the Gunners’ books as a youngster. Moore may not have enough players to name a full bench of nine substitutes.
Possible West Ham United XI: Randolph; Johnson, Dawson, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice, Noble; Yarmolenko, Lanzini, Fornals; Antonio.
Possible Doncaster Rovers XI: Balcombe; Wright, Butler, Anderson, John; Halliday, James; Lokilo, Richards, Simoes; Okenabirhie.
Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!