Stars linked to Rovers

New Rover: Herita Ilunga made his debut in Doncaster shirt against Sheffield Wednesday.

New Rover: Herita Ilunga made his debut in Doncaster shirt against Sheffield Wednesday.

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DONCASTER Rovers new loan signing Herita Ilunga made his debut for the club in a behind closed doors practice match against a Sheffield Wednesday side at the Owls training ground yesterday afternoon.

Ilunga, who has joined Rovers on loan until January, played for 45 minutes at left-back in the game which the Keepmoat Stadium club won 3-2.

Blackburn’s versatile Herold Goulon, who has joined the club on a week’s trial, played for all but two minutes for Rovers.

He played centre-back in the first half before switching to a central midfield role after the break.

Both players are set to feature against a Manchester United X1 in another practice game on Friday when other new faces who could be joining the club on short-term deals could have a run out.

Rovers, who signed former French international Pascal Chimbonda on a three-month contract last Thursday, have been linked with several top names including Newcastle’s Alan Smith in recent days.

The rumour mill has been working overtime with Twitter the main source for many suggestions.

Real Madrid defensive midfielder Lassana Diarra was once such name that has been mentioned but he is unlikely to make the switch from Spain to the Keepmoat having committed himself to the Jose Mourinho coached club during the summer.

The French-born star is currently out of favour with the Spanish but is contracted until 2013.

Possibly it would be Mali captain Mahamadou Diarra who is without a club after leaving Monaco at the end of last season.

No-one at the club was available for comment last night.

But the fact that a player of his standing is even being talked about in the same breath as Rovers highlights the wind of change blowing through the homely Championship club in the last fortnight since the arrival of new boss Dean Saunders and the closer involvement of Doncaster agent Willie McKay.

Record signing Billy Sharp, substituted after an hour in Saturday’s game at Peterborough after making his first start since being stretchered off with damaged ankle ligaments on the opening day of the season, played for 45 minutes in a bid to boost his fitness levels.

Sharp played for an hour at the weekend, but struggled to make his usual impact and Saunders admitted that he wasn’t 100 per cent fit.

Goalkeeper Gary Woods, right-back Mustapha Dumbuya and Giles Barnes, who have all fallen out of favour at first-team level recently, all played a full game.

On-loan midfielder Ryan Mason got another 80 minutes under his belt following his return to fitness after an ankle injury.

Mark Wilson and Sam Hird both played a full game and teenagers James Baxendale and Oscar Radford both enjoyed a run-out after the break.

Centre-back Adam Lockwood played his first game since knee surgery late last season and showed up well.

Kyle Bennett, Rovers’ match-winner against Peterborough after replacing Sharp, gave his side the lead after just 50 seconds with a 20 yarder.

Sharp scored his first goal since returning to action when converting his own penalty after eight minutes.

The Owls pulled a goal back after Woods had conceded a penalty. They drew level at 2-2 on 24 minutes.

Bennett, who had impressed Saunders at the weekend, set up what proved to be the winner for James Hayter on 37 minutes.

Chelsea loanee Milan Lalkovic is included in the Slovakia squad to take on Latvia in their European Under-21s qualifier on Tuesday.

Lalkovic, who has five caps, agreed to stay another month at the Championship after impressing in his first spell during which time he started in the game at Derby. The 18 year-old has had to settle for a place on the bench at best since that game and is keen to start under Saunders.

“I need the chance to prove myself,” he said. “I think that I’ve done well for the team when I’ve come on but I want to start games now.

“I’m fighting for my place in the starting line-up and hopefully the manager will see that.

“I am enjoying my time at the club. I play at a good standard for Chelsea Reserves but the Championship is more difficult. It is definitely quicker but that’s not a problem as pace is one of my strengths and they say I’m one of the quickest players at Chelsea.

“I want to play the game at a high tempo so I have got to get used to running with the ball at pace. That’s why I’ve been sent here - to gain experience.

“I don’t know what is going to happen at the end of this month’s loan, I’m just concentrating on helping the team during my time here.”

Lalkovic can either play out wide or as a striker.

“It doesn’t matter to me where I play as long as I’m the team,” he says.

An unused substitute, Lalkovic shared in the team’s delight at climbing out of the bottom three at the weekend,

“There are a lot of good players here and we are a better team than our record suggests,” he said.