Ilunga up for the cup

Herita Ilunga has clearly taken a special liking to the FA Cup.

West Ham United's DR Congo left-back scored West Ham United's 83rd-minute equaliser to salvage a 1-1 fifth-round draw against Middlesbrough at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday. The goal was Ilunga's second for the club - the other coming in the 3-0 third-round victory over Barnsley last month.

Naturally, the defender was delighted to get his name on the scoresheet for a second time but, true to his team-first ethic, Ilunga was even happier to have ensured West Ham were in the sixth-round draw and contemplating a possible tie away at Everton.

"The most important thing for me is to play well and help the team achieve our targets and if I can score a goal then that's even better. The most important thing is for us all to do well as a team, but of course I am happy to have scored."

Ilunga's late header from substitute Savio's curling free-kick cancelled out Stewart Downing's first-half opener and, at the same time, ended the home side's frustrating search for a vital equaliser. Now, the two teams must face each other again in a replay at the Riverside Stadium on Tuesday 24 February.

"Of course it is important that we are still in the FA Cup but it would have been preferable for us to win the game instead of having to play an extra game with the replay. But as we have to play them again, I am confident and hope that we can go up there and get the win."

Before the replay, however, Ilunga and his team-mates have the little matter of a Premier League trip to Bolton Wanderers to attend to. West Ham have never tasted victory at the Reebok Stadium but the 25-year-old, who has committed his long-term future to the club, is confident that unwanted record can be laid to rest this coming weekend.

"We are still thinking positively as we have been over the last few weeks and even though we drew against Middlesbrough, it will not take our confidence away from us. Now we are looking forward to playing at Bolton in the Premier League and then after that we will think about Middlesbrough and the replay."

Ilunga also took time out to thank the two West Ham supporters - Dan Boden and Dan Honey - who took a DR Congo flag to the Premier League fixture at Middlesbrough on 1 November. "I was very grateful and happy when I saw my country's flag at Middlesbrough. It was a great gesture and I want to thank them for it."