This week’s loan round-up sees the inclusion of the latest on the youth team, who returned to action this past weekend with a 2-0 victory at Portsmouth. On the loan front, Miroslav Stoch is a game closer to becoming a Dutch champion, whilst big games lie ahead for almost all of the club’s other youngsters out at other clubs.
It’s been a few weeks since the Under-18s were involved in domestic action, as they travelled to the United States for the Dallas Cup, where they suffered an unfortunate group stage elimination. Their return to league football came in the form of a re-arranged fixture away to Portsmouth on Saturday morning, and it was a winning return, as goals from Philipp Prosenik and Anton Rodgers sealed a 2-0 win. Prosenik was making his competitive return to action for the first time since November, having suffered three different injuries this season, curtailing his progress in his first season abroad. He grabbed the opener in this fixture just before the half hour mark, moving onto a perfect corner from Rodgers to slam a header past Liam O’Brien.
Chelsea had already beaten Portsmouth twice in youth team football this season, with a 3-2 win at Cobham followed by a 1-0 victory in the FA Youth Cup at Stamford Bridge, and they sealed the season sweep late in the second half when Rodgers curled a deft free kick into the back of the net from the edge of the area. The Irishman’s season has also been up and down with irregular involvement caused by injury and international commitments, but he has chipped in with a handful of spectacular goals and continues to prove his worth when he gets time to show what he can do.
The match was also notable for the return to action of captain Connor Clifford, who had been out for a few weeks after picking up an ankle problem in the second leg of the Youth Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers. His fitness will be crucial ahead of the Final, which will be against either Aston Villa or Newcastle. They drew 1-1 in their first leg this past week, and the tie will be decided in the coming days.
Team: Walker, Sampayo, Strickland, Ince, Deen-Conteh, Saville, C.Clifford (c), Rodgers, Prosenik, Lalkovic, Mitrovic
On the loan front, the season is entering its final weeks and for the majority of Chelsea’s young prospects enjoying spells elsewhere, everything is still to play for, perhaps nowhere moreso than in Holland, where FC Twente are two games away from their first title in over 80 years. A tough 2-0 win over Heerenveen on Saturday night means that Miroslav Stoch and Slobodan Rajkovic edge that little bit closer to their first senior silverware, even if their involvements in the side continue to differ. Rajkovic was an unused sub once again, whilst Miroslav returned to the starting eleven after injury, and played almost the full duration, making way in stoppage time. His performance was again a little below his par for the campaign, but whilst Ajax continue to mount late pressure – a 7-0 win over VVV Venlo keeps them in contention with 96 goals scored and an absurd +77 goal difference – it very much remains in Steve McClaren’s hands.
In England, Michael Mancienne, Jack Cork and Scott Sinclair are still involved in a relegation battle, although Franco Di Santo and Blackburn are safe. The Argentinian spent his Sunday lunchtime sat on the bench enjoying the Lancashire sunshine as his teammates took a deserved point from Manchester United, and aided Chelsea’s title chase in the process. Sinclair had a free weekend as a consequence of Wigan being without a fixture due to FA Cup Semi Final commitments, but both Mancienne and Cork started and played big parts in the fight against the drop for their respective sides.
Mancienne has been rather integral to Wolves’ performances of late and a point at home to Stoke in a goalless draw on Sunday keeps Mick McCarthy’s side six points clear of the drop with four games to play. He was neat and tidy in his work, and whilst he won’t commit to his thoughts on where his future lies next season, it’s a promising sign for him personally to be playing well in the top flight on a consistent basis.
Cork, meanwhile, was restored to the Burnley starting team after last weekend’s Claret calamity at home to Manchester City and, coincidence or not, was part of the club’s best result in months. A huge 4-1 victory over Hull at the KC Stadium still leaves them with work to do, but it offers a great deal more hope than it did before the match. Whether Cork’s inclusion in the side affects their performance or not is well up for debate, but he certainly does appear to offer them more than alternative options such as Kevin McDonald, and had a good afternoon on Saturday.
Down in The Championship, the season is somehow still alive for Ryan Bertrand and Reading. They currently lie nine points out of a playoff spot after the weekend 0-0 draw at Cardiff, but have two games in hand which could leave them with a potential outside shot at sneaking into the top six. The match in Wales appears to have had very little by way of incident, but it can probably be said that a clean sheet to his name makes it a decent weekend for the attacking left-back, who this week spoke of his frustration at not being given a chance to break through at Stamford Bridge, and suggested he may be happy to remain at Reading on a permanent basis.
Ben Gordon continued his experiences at Tranmere with a 2-1 defeat away to Walsall, and picked up another yellow card for his troubles. Manager Les Parry offered a comment on his contributions to date:
“When we look at the contribution of Ben he’s stronger in defending, but not so effective going forward. Ben has done nothing wrong, but certainly with it being a home game it’s something we’ve got to seriously consider.”
There’s even something for Matej Delač to play for, albeit on a different scale. In an up and down performance from the teenage stopper at the weekend, Inter Zapresic lost 3-1 to bottom placed Croatia Sesvete, and it cost their manager his job. Matej made some outstanding saves but was also poor on occasion, and you can judge for yourself in the match highlights here. The new man in charge is Ilija Lončarević, a man of great experience and reputation, and somebody Matej will be looking to impress in his final months in Croatia.