Chelsea might have thirteen players out on loan, but three missed out on action this weekend, and with a fourth suspended and others fighting knocks, there was slightly less action to report on than usual.
Miroslav Stoch replaced Slobodan Rajkovic on the FC Twente injury table, having been taken off midweek away to FC Qarabag with a knee problem. Swelling didn’t allow a diagnosis of the injury in time for their visit to Feyenoord, so Stoch missed his first match since going to Holland. Rajkovic returned to the defence after a hamstring injury but was withdrawn at half-time, not fully match fit, and having been booked in the 19th minute.
Lee Sawyer wasn’t involved for Southend as they lost 2-1 at Swindon, with manager Steve Tilson revealing that he is still suffering from a knee ligament problem originally sustained in a pre-season friendly. Franco Di Santo missed Blackburn’s game with West Ham with a continuation of the hamstring injury he picked up at Sunderland, with at least another fortnight out to be expected with this type of injury.
Onto those who did play though, and we’ll start with Michael Mancienne, who was restored to the Wolves team after being denied the opportunity to play in the Carling Cup by Chelsea. Hull dominated the first half at Molineux and took the lead as Wolves struggled, but they found an equaliser early in the second half, with Mancienne involved. The defender launched a free kick from deep, which was flicked on and finished by Richard Stearman to earn another point for Mick McCarthy’s team. As with most of this season, Mancienne’s performance impressed most followers (if not all):
“Mancienne picking up those runs by Ghilas perfectly. In fact Mancienne again put in a stellar performance.”
“Mancienne was a joy to watch.”
“Mancienne – Superb reading of the game today – he was excellent both on the ball and off it.”
Scott Sinclair only had eight minutes of action on Sunday in Wigan’s trip to Everton, but he had a major influence on the outcome. With time running out he led a Latics counter-attack where they had five attackers to the host’s two. Sinclair however decided to go alone and ignore passing, and the chance went to waste. Everton went down the other end and won a penalty, which old Wigan player Leighton Baines scored to leave Sinclair wonderwhing what could have been with better decision-making – arguably summing up his professional career to date in a single moment.
In the Championship, Patrick van Aanholt and Jack Cork were given a dose of reality as Coventry’s decent start to the season firmly hit the downhill slide in a comprehensive 3-0 loss at Blackpool. Van Aanholt was fortunate early on as Gary Taylor-Fletcher clambered all over him and hit the crossbar, but was duly penalised, but neither could do anything about the three home goals. Over at Barnsley, Ryan Bertrand featured at left-back for 90 minutes in Reading’s 3-1 win at Barnsley, which saw Simon Davey sacked at full time. His performances continue to earn positive reviews, but he divides opinion amongst fans, only to be expected given he has replaced their player of last season, Chris Armstrong.
At Bramall Lane, Shaun Cummings had a game of ups and downs in West Brom’s 2-2 draw with Sheffield United. He provided the opener for Roman Bednar with a lovely cross for the Czech striker to head home, and looked good going forward. At the other end, the Blades’ equaliser came from a cross from his side, but he had showed his man inside and away from goal and the defending in the box was poor, but the real controversy came two minutes from time. The Baggies were 2-1 up and defending deep, but Darius Henderson won a debatable penalty, going down rather easily under close pressure from Cummings, with no real challenge coming. Dave Cotterill scored the penalty and took a share of the points for his team.
In League One, Liam Bridcutt’s debut red card at Brighton meant he missed Stockport’s home clash with Southampton, and a potential midfield battle with Jacob Mellis. Mellis did feature for the entire 90 minutes in a game which was decided by two penalties, both scored, to finish 1-1. Mellis was outraged at the controversial decision to award Stockport a stoppage time opportunity to level, and made sure the referee heard his frustrations at full-time. He himself had been denied a first-half penalty of his own, but was lively and dynamic in getting forward, now settling into football at this level. Manager Alan Pardew was impressed with what he saw:
“Mellis and Lallana were brilliant and it was probably our best area but Neal Trotman also performed well again and Lambert got another goal.
That leaves us with Tom Taiwo, who is really growing into his role at Carlisle, and impressed again in their 2-2 draw away to Leyton Orient. His slide-rule pass to Matty Robson gave them a lead, but they were to only draw 2-2 due to late drama, which he missed having been withdrawn with a knock of his own on 68 minutes. Comments on him were positive last week, and so it’s fitting to finish this week’s with further adulation for the Yorkshireman:
“Taiwo could well be one of League One’s best players and could be a superb find.”
“Taiwo has been far the brightest spot of our season so far really. He is an excellent little player, just constant work and hassling but with a decent amount of talent to go with it. My main criticism so far is just when he gets into the positions where he arrives late into the box he needs more composure – has had a few decent chances so far this season but just snatched at them.”
To finish, a quick note on a couple of youth international involvements from the weekend. Nathaniel Chalobah started his and England’s third fixture of the FA International Tournament, as England beat Portugal 1-0. He was employed as a defensive midfielder this time, and was withdrawn ten minutes into the second half, as the youngest player in the squad by at least twelve months. Josh McEachran was once again not involved, having been released back to Chelsea after the first fixture, but Philipp Prosenik did play as Austria beat France 2-1 and finished second in the Youth-TOTO Cup.