Zola wants same again

Gianfranco Zola is urging his team to keep their minds on the job when they take on Everton this afternoon and not get carried away after the club's run of three unbeaten games.

The manager, speaking after training on Saturday, was mindful another three points to go with those collected against Aston Villa last Wednesday would propel his team above their opponents and into mid-table. However, he warned against thinking midweek success would automatically lead to another win.

"The players are very happy and have belief from the three points," he said. "That is a good starting point. We have to keep all the other things going. We need to focus. It is going to be a tough match." The manager confirmed Herita Ilunga would probably be absent but it was not certain if fellow hamstring victim Carlton Cole would figure.

With Danny Gabbidon set to get more match action on international duty, left-back Fabio Daprela's impressive displays with the reserves could rival him for a place in the squad along with the back-from-suspension Radoslav Kovac. Everton, in contrast, have a number of injury problems and suffered a European setback on Thursday. Zola said whoever lines up for the visitors would be sure to pose a stiff test.

"It depends if it is a good time to play them. They will want to react. I know they might have problems but it is going to be down to us that the confidence doesn't affect us. Psychologically it is going to be a game where we will have an advantage at the beginning. We have to just make sure we keep that."

He admitted leapfrogging Everton in the table - the Hammers can potentially jump to 12th with a victory - "would be a very significant thing for all of us. I repeat that we have to keep focused and work hard."

The manager also said a statistic hailing his team as the best tacklers in the top flight - winning nearly 80 per cent of their challenges - was indicative of the "determination and desire to succeed". He added: "It is down to the commitment of the players. We care about what we do and they want to react."

Finally, Zola responded to a question about Dean Ashton by saying he hoped there would be an update soon on his situation. The striker has not played for more than a year with an ankle injury and has been unable to take part in training. Instead he is away from the squad and working on his personal fitness while the next steps are assessed.

Ashton had previously had surgery in the spring and hoped to be back for the start of this season. Zola said: "When something like this happens it is very much personal. Me as a manager I am here to make sure I can give him all the support that he needs. I understand that it is quite a difficult time for him."