After a rare busy midweek of loan action at Chelsea, the weekend’s slate was somewhat quieter, with heavy snowfall across the UK and Western Europe cancelling the action for a number of players.
We start the round-up by going way back to last Monday night, where Rhys Taylor sat on the QPR bench again for a credible draw away to second-placed West Brom. He was again named as the backup goalkeeper on Saturday when Paul Hart took charge of the Hoops for the first time in a 1-1 draw with Sheffield United. Whilst Rhys is there as a backup, starting keeper Radek Cerny has looked shaky of late and the Welsh Under-21 international could prove to be an alternative in the weeks ahead.
Tuesday saw Premier League action, and a start for Michael Mancienne for Wolves at Old Trafford as Mick McCarthy made ten changes for their trip to Manchester United. He completed 90 minutes for the first time in nearly two months and looked more comfortable than he has done in some time, despite suffering a 3-0 defeat. Down at Birmingham, Franco Di Santo was consigned to the substitute’s bench for Blackburn as Sam Allardyce rotated his strikers in a 2-1 defeat. The same fate befell Scott Sinclair again as Wigan lost 2-1 at Liverpool on Wednesday night.
Liam Bridcutt and Stockport finally got their FA Cup Third Round tie at home to Torquay on after two previous postponements but Tuesday night’s clash was moved to Macclesfield’s Moss Rose stadium and to tell the truth, the Hatters will wish they hadn’t have bothered. They crashed to a 4-0 defeat to a team a division below them, and followed it up on Saturday with a 4-1 loss at Gillingham in League One action to make it seven straight defeats and leave them rock bottom of the table. Liam played the 90 minutes in the FA Cup but was absent for the weekend trip to icy Kent with a knee injury, which doesn’t appear to be too serious.
He was embroiled in a relegation dogfight in the same division with Yeovil back in 2007/08 and if his loan spell is extended beyond the new year, he will definitely be in one again. After a positive start to life at Edgeley Park, his form has started to mirror that of the team, and whilst he is still impressive in breaking up play, his use of the ball has gradually become inconsistent, and he offers both Chelsea and manager Gary Ablett an interesting conundrum to solve before January 2nd.
Tuesday night continued along its busy path with Johnstone’s Paint Trophy action for Tom Taiwo and Jacob Mellis. Taiwo and Carlisle beat Bradford 3-0 at Brunton Park to seal a date with Leeds United in the Northern Section Final, but Tom came off after 64 minutes in a tactical reshuffle which saw the Cumbrians stretch their lead minutes later through replacement Scott Dobie. In the Southern Section, Jacob Mellis started Southampton’s Semi Final at home to Norwich and had a couple of good chances to score his first goal for the club before he came off after an hour with Alan Pardew in search of goals. The search worked, as they took the game to penalties and prevailed to set up a section Final against MK Dons.
The midfield action was not yet complete however, with Thursday night’s Europa League action offering another chance for Miroslav Stoch to impress as FC Twente looked to seal their place in the knockout stage. They did, achieving a 1-1 draw away to Steaua Bucharest, but the Slovakian winger had one of his quieter ninety minutes. More positively, Slobodan Rajkovic made his comeback from a hernia problem as a substitute for the last fifteen minutes. Twente’s weekend match away to FC Utrecht fell foul of the weather, meaning Steve McClaren’s charges enter the winter break as first half champions, and remain unbeaten. The season resumes on January 20th, and we will keep you updated on what Stoch and Rajkovic get up to over the break, indeed, should they do anything of note.
Into the weekend, and back to Premier League action, where Di Santo had been restored to Blackburn’s line-up at home to Tottenham. He had a quietly effective 72 minutes, going close to a goal in the first half and proving himself a handful for the Spurs defenders, but the visitors came away happiest with a 2-0 win. On Sunday, Wolves beat Burnley 2-0 at Molineux with Mancienne employed as a ‘fireman’ defender just in front of the back four for the final twenty minutes, where he was superb in preserving a vital lead and crucial three points. Scott Sinclair and Wigan host Bolton on Monday night, and his involvement will be detailed here at full time.
In the Championship, Jack Cork and Patrick van Aanholt were on the winning trail for Coventry as they picked up a huge 1-0 win away to fellow strugglers Plymouth, and both once again had solid, if not spectacular performances. Ryan Bertrand was back for Reading, under the temporary tutelage of Brian McDermott, and they grabbed a last-gasp equaliser to earn a point away to Bristol City. Ryan was booked late in the game and, as usual, had a good outing at both ends of the pitch, with some tough tackling and energetic attacking play.
Taiwo’s Saturday trip to Colchester fell foul of the weather, and we know that Bridcutt was injured, but Mellis was back to sitting on the bench for the duration of the game as Southampton lost to a late Robert Snodgrass goal to fall 1-0 at Leeds.
Finally, Nana Ofori-Twumasi has extended his loan spell at Dagenham & Redbridge until January 9th but was inactive at the weekend as their trip to Rotherham fell foul of the elements.