It’s been another weekend of ups and downs for Chelsea’s loan congtinent, with a mix of positive performances and contributions and negative outings and continued disappointments as we get ever deeper into the season.
The best performance of the weekend is where we should rightfully start, and that goes to Jacob Mellis at Southampton. After a quietly efficient start to his professional career he had an excellent game in the Saints’ 4-1 win over Gillingham which saw them into positive points for the first time this year. After going close early on with a volley, he went even closer midway through the first half with a nice run outside the box, beating two men and driving a low left-footed effort which came back off the post. Undeterred however, he provided a lovely cross from the right for Adam Lallana to make the score 3-1 just before the break, and late in the game showed some quick feet to help provide the same player for the game’s final goal.
Things weren’t so rosy for the other League One players, however. Tom Taiwo was fit to continue for Carlisle away to Walsall but they could only muster a 2-2 draw courtesy of a late equaliser in a game they were largely disappointing in. At Edgeley Park, Lee Sawyer’s Southend travelled to Liam Bridcutt’s Stockport County and grabbed a 2-0 win with a Lee Barnard brace, but Sawyer was yet again consigned to watching on as an unused substitute. Bridcutt played well but was unable to impact on the result and was booked in stoppage time along with a number of team-mates for questioning a highly dubious performance by the referee, who had given the Shrimpers a controversial penalty to take the lead.
It was also a case of the good and the bad in the Premier League. Scott Sinclair grabbed his first goal for Wigan – indeed, his first in the top flight – just three minutes after coming on as a late sub in the Latics’ 2-1 loss at Hull. He followed in a shot to head into an open goal with good agility, and will be hoping to get more than just the six minutes on the pitch next time out.
For Michael Mancienne though, things aren’t getting a whole lot better. Wolves succumbed to a 1-0 home defeat to Portsmouth during which the young defender appeared disinterested and sloppy, and was part of conceding the game’s sole goal to Hassan Yebda in failing to pick up the runner from deep. It’s another high-profile ‘error’ in recent weeks from the England Under-21 international and it has led to many of his fans in the Midlands questioning his place in the side. It’s not quite a majority though, with the general concensus appearing to be that he still deserves a place in their team, even if it might be at full-back for a while.
On Sunday at the Emirates Stadium, Franco Di Santo started for Blackburn and had some lively spells in the first half where Blackburn twice led, but they were blitzed by a rampant Arsenal and lost 6-2. Franco had poor supply and was used in a disappointing target-man fashion, and ultimately had a rotten game bereft of luck or opportunity.
In the Championship, Jack Cork and Patrick van Aanholt played 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Leicester, where both looked good for the majority of the game, but van Aanholt was part of a defence which struggled late against a barrage of Foxes attackes that allowed them an equaliser. Ryan Bertrand and Reading continue to struggle, losing 2-0 to Middlesbrough, and the player himself will be disappointed not to have done better for Sean St. Ledger’s opener, having been close to clearing it on the goal line but failing to keep it out.
In Holland, Miroslav Stoch and FC Twente came back from an early shock goal at Heracles to win 3-1 and stay top of the Eredivisie (and indeed unbeaten). The Slovakian winger went close early with a thundering long-range effort and was his usual lively self throughout, being withdrawn with 12 minutes left. Slobodan Rajkovic continues to recover from hernia surgery, whilst in Croatia Matej Delac is still suffering with glandular fever.
Finally, on the international scene, Nana Ofori-Twumasi and Michael Woods both return home early from the Under-20 World Cup as England suffered the ignominy of a group stage elimination, failing to beat Uzbekistan in the deciding match. Neither player featured in that match, which is probably a good thing, but Woods failed to play a single second in the tournament and may feel that his has been a wasted trip.
Jan Sebek remains with the Czech squad as they did reach the knockout rounds, and Anton Rodgers featured for the unbeaten Republic of Ireland Under-17s as they successfully negotiated the qualifying stage of the Under-17 European Championships in Bulgaria.