Those are your headlines from a busy week of loan action as the season approaches the final weeks. In an up and down seven days, some have impressed, some have struggled, and some have returned to action after being sidelined.
We’ll start last Monday with Wigan’s visit to Manchester City. Scott Sinclair’s season to date hasn’t been full of playing time, and predictably he was once again left on the substitutes bench as a Carlos Tevez hat-trick put Roberto Martinez’s side to the sword once more.
The remainder of the week was pretty quiet until the Easter Weekend kicked off with a double header of Football League action in addition to a regular Premier League and European schedule. Sinclair’s week barely became more active as he got just five minutes against Fulham in a 2-1 loss at Craven Cottage. It’s been said before but is worth saying again – Wigan are far from safe yet and their current starting numbers are not showing a great deal of consistency. It can’t do much harm to give the likes of Sinclair a go in the final few games, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Another Premier League loanee making his appearance from the bench was Jack Cork for Burnley. His was a better story though, with his 45 minutes being the best in a Claret shirt in an otherwise forgetful Saturday afternoon. Manchester City came away from Turf Moor with a 6-1 win, having notched five in the first half. Cork’s second half arrival saw an improved team performance and it was the young midfielder’s slide-rule ball to Steven Fletcher which created the consolation strike. Whilst his place in the starting team would not have affected the result, it might’ve helped the hosts retain the ball better, and it’s fair to say that he’s been their best player since arriving at the end of January.
Franco Di Santo was left on the bench as Blackburn struggled to a goalless and insipid draw away to Portsmouth, and with Blackburn pretty much safe, it would be nice to see him play towards the end of the season. Over at the Emirates Stadium, however, Michael Mancienne started for Wolves in midfield and had another chance to test his mettle against a title challenger. He turned in a sensational performance, breaking up Arsenal attack after Arsenal attack, only to suffer injury-time heartbreak when Nicklas Bendtner scored a late winner. For the second time in three matches, he was given Sky’s Man of the Match award:
Man of the Match: Michael Mancienne. The on-loan Chelsea player was a rock in his defensive central midfield role. The 22-year-old made several crucial tackles but his great performance proved to be in vain.
His performance was summed up even later than Bendtner’s goal, when Arsenal set off on a 4-on-1 counter attack. Mancienne sprinted 90 yards to help cover, and ended up making the crucial block to deny a second goal. More than one fan described his performance as immense, and against such an opponent it’s nice to be talking in positive tones about him, after something of an up and down season.
Down in The Championship, Reading’s good recent run ended at Ipswich on Saturday with a 2-1 defeat before they rebounded on Easter Monday with a 3-0 stroll over Coventry at the Madejski Stadium. Ryan Bertrand played in both fixtures and was instrumental in a strong first half against the Sky Blues, earning a penalty after a run into the box midway through the first half. It was described as his best performance of the season, continuing the overall positive sentiments from the loanees this weekend.
For the club’s other left-back on loan though, times continue to be tough. Ben Gordon was part of Tranmere’s surprise 3-1 victory over Norwich on Friday night, but that owed much to calamitous refereeing, and on Monday away to promotion-chasing Swindon, he struggled again, as he did on debut at Brighton. An early own goal didn’t aid his confidence, and he’s currently learning about the professional game the hard way. He’s not the first and he won’t be the last, and will be hoping to turn things around next time out.
In Holland, the title dream inches ever closer for Slobodan Rajkovic and Miroslav Stoch. The Slovakian winger had missed the previous two games with a groin problem but after scans revealed the problem did not require surgery, he was able to make his return away to VVV Venlo on Saturday night, playing 19 minutes at the end of their 2-0 win. Rajkovic remained an unused sub, but three wins will secure their first title since 1926.
Finally, we catch up with Matej Delač, who revealed last week that he will be joining Chelsea this summer, six months ahead of the originally scheduled date of January 2011. The positive week continued here as he was voted Man of the Match after Inter’s 2-1 win over NK Međimurje. You can see highlights of his match-winning performance here.