It’s not been the greatest 2010 so far for Miroslav Stoch, and he’ll be amongst the first to tell you that himself. His domestic form has dried up – particularly in front of goal – and he’s struggled with injury, but all of that can firmly be put in the past after returning to the scoresheet on Sunday afternoon to keep Twente one point clear atop the Eredivisie heading into next weekend’s final round of action.
With Twente already a goal to the good over Feyenoord through Blaise N’Kufo, the Slovakian Under-21 international put the game to bed midway through the second half with his first goal since December 12th, when he scored twice against NAC Breda. Bryan Ruiz played a ball through the Rotterdammers’ back line and Stoch ran onto it from the left, taking a touch to compose himself before curling the ball confidently past Erwin Mulder. You can see the goal here. Slobodan Rajkovic remained an unused substitute.
Ajax beat Heracles 4-0 in Amsterdam to leave the title race seperated by just a single point going into next weekend’s last day of the season. Steve McClaren’s boys head for an away trip against NAC Breda, whilst Ajax are also on the road to Nijmegen away to NEC. It’s going to be a fascinating final round and one thing is for sure – Miroslav has picked a fantastic time to return to form.
It’s been a largely productive week for the youngsters out on loan as the season comes to its final stages, with the usual exceptions once again lacking involvement. To get them out of the way early, Scott Sinclair was an unused substitute for Wigan on Sunday as they all but sealed their Premier League survival with a dramatic 3-2 win over Arsenal, and found himself in the rather depressing same position last Wednesday in a goalless draw against a relegated Portsmouth side featuring three academy players. Franco Di Santo hardly had it better, getting mere seconds in stoppage time for Blackburn, who had just gone 2-3 down to Everton in their eventual loss.
Jack Cork continued his run in the Burnley first team on Saturday for their trip to Sunderland but Brian Laws’ side fell to a 2-1 defeat which severely dents their survival chances. Jack played 81 minutes in midfield, using the ball well and having a sight of goal blocked on the edge of the area, but it was one of his less influential matches in recent weeks. He was replaced by Robbie Blake as the Clarets went into an attacking mode, which rescued one goal, but they were unable to draw level and look set for the drop.
Michael Mancienne and Wolves would appear to now be safe as another goalless draw, away to Fulham, put them six points clear of the danger zone with three games to play. Mick McCarthy’s side have kept three clean sheets in five games with the goals conceded in the other two coming in stoppage time, and Michael has certainly played his part. He was his usual effective, tidy self in the holding role at the end of a week in which his future has come up for discussion once more. McCarthy has indicated he doesn’t believe Mancienne to be ready to be a regular at Chelsea yet, but the words may be borne out of a desire to keep him around for next season (or indeed longer), but he’s certainly playing well and has been for a number of weeks.
Reading’s playoff hopes took an almighty blow last Tuesday when they lost a game in hand at home to Newcastle by a 2-1 scoreline, with Ryan Bertrand playing but unable to make an impact. They responded in superb fashion on Saturday, smashing relegated Peterborough for six at the Madejski Stadium and keeping their faint hopes alive in cracking fashion. This time, the England Under-21 left-back was keenly involved, in front of the watching Frank Arnesen. He won a 25th minute penalty after popping up on the right wing and cutting inside his man, and could have had another before half time but remained upright to shoot, but off target. Ryan is another who has a slightly uncertain future ahead of him as far as Chelsea goes, but is doing his chances no harm with his consistently impressive contributions in recent weeks.
It’s a different story for the other left-back out on loan, as Ben Gordon lost his first team place on Tuesday night, remaining an unused substitute in Tranmere’s 0-3 home reverse against Wycombe. It kept the Prenton Park side nervous ahead of Saturday’s match with Exeter, for which Ben was once more left unused, but a 3-1 win could keep Les Parry’s boys in the division another season, providing they win their game in hand. What the future holds for Ben is less certain.
Matej Delač was in rare midweek action in the past seven days too, and despite Inter losing 3-0 to NK Osijek, he was once more voted his team’s man of the match, something which is becoming more and more common. With national team goalkeeper Vedran Runje suffering a broken rib, Matej stands to be second choice at worst in Croatia’s upcoming international friendlies. He kept another clean sheet on Saturday with a rare win for Zapresic, beating Zadar 1-0, and you can see highlights of his outing here.