This Sunday sees an extended round-up, after missing the midweek football due to a busy time for myself. As the season nears an end, the stakes are still very high for a number of players.
Despite the plethora of action since the last update, Daniel Welbeck has been out of action since his FA Cup Semi Final appearance at Wembley. After playing the full 120 minutes against Everton, he was rested from duty for the following four games for United, so expect him back in the near future. Second on the list, Gael Kakuta, is recovering well from his serious injury, whilst Chelsea colleague Michael Woods does the same. Similar cannot be said of Rhys Taylor though, who continues to be sidelined with the effects of a concussion suffered in a February friendly at St. Patrick’s Athletic in Ireland.
Sticking with Chelsea, and Miroslav Stoch completed his three-match domestic suspension to return to the first team bench for the 1-0 Premier League win at West Ham, although he remained unused. In the midweek Reserve fixture, Jeffrey Bruma played in an unfamiliar central midfield position and did well against West Brom, and Dutch compatriot Patrick van Aanholt impressed in an equally unfamiliar left-wing role, capping a fine outing with a lovely free kick in a 2-2 draw. Jacob Mellis was the highlight of the night though, providing a goal for Juliano Belletti and putting in a performance which caused Guus Hiddink to name him as a substitute for the Everton game on Wednesday night. He didn’t play, but Jack Rodwell did, albeit for one minute late in the goalless draw, before returning to the bench for the visit of Man City on Saturday. He was joined by Jose Baxter.
Neither got onto the pitch, but elsewhere, Man Utd’s Rafael Da Silva did. He played as a second-half substitute on Wednesday night in a routine 2-0 win over Portsmouth and earned a weekend start against Tottenham. He was subbed after 70 mins as United turned around a 2-0 deficit at half time into a 5-2 win, but was left embarrassed for Tottenham’s second goal by Luka Modric. His twin brother Fábio had a lower key week, missing a late penalty against Newcastle Reserves to cost the Reds a win, instead having to settle for a 1-1 draw. The third Brazilian in the club’s youth ranks, Rodrigo Possebon, is now Italian, representing their Under-20s in midweek, unfortunately losing 5-0 to Germany.
The other United players in the list – and there are a lot of them – had a mixed week. Ben Amos kept goal twice, keeping a clean sheet in the 4-0 victory over Preston to advance to the Lancashire Senior Cup Final, and then in a 4-2 academy win on Saturday against Newcastle. Matthew James played midfield in the former game, and scored a quite stupendous 35-yard stunner to cap the win off. At the other end of the scale, Davide Petrucci was forced to watch again as he continues to recover from injury, whilst Federico Macheda has also been resting, and was an unused substitute against Tottenham. Sam Hewson, on loan at Hereford, is another on the longer-term injury table.
Arsenal’s young charges – Jack Wilshere, Kyle Bartley, and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas – were given the weekend off after successfully qualifying for the FA Youth Cup Final in midweek. Emmanuel-Thomas was named as a substitute for the Under-18 game against Tottenham but didn’t feature, and neither did the injured (again) Rhys Murphy. Dean Parrett and John Bostock did feature in white though, Parrett captaining the team and Bostock scoring an early goal in a 2-2 draw.
The Gunners’ defeated midweek opponents, Man City, were away at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, where we await news of how Robbie Mak, Alex Nimely-Tchuimeni and Kieran Trippier got on. Ben Mee and Vladimir Weiss featured earlier in the same week for the club’s reserves in a 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough, where Richie Smallwood was a second half substitute. Smallwood and ‘Boro goalkeeper Jason Steele played three days later in the North Riding Senior Cup against Marske United. Steele kept a clean sheet and Smallwood captained the team, picking up a yellow card as they try to seal some silverware in a local competition.
Aston Villa trio Nathan Delfouneso, Nathan Baker and Ciaran Clark all featured in a 2-1 reserve victory over Fulham, for whom Keanu Marsh-Brown put in an impressive attacking performance. Baker played at left-back and got forward to good measure, going close twice. Delfouneso and Clark both then made the first team bench for Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Bolton, where the striker got fifteen minutes late on and looked decent.
In the Championship, their club team-mate Barry Bannan featured in both of Derby’s matches, playing 89 minutes midweek in a defeat to promotion hopefuls Reading, and then one minute fewer in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat of Charlton. In the Reading match, he was replaced by Nacer Barazite, who has returned from a serious ankle injury ahead of time. Jordon Mutch of Birmingham watched as his senior colleagues failed to clinch promotion to the Premier League by losing to Preston.
League two saw Jordan Spence continue at the heart of Leyton Orient’s defence as they lost a close game 2-1 to Millwall, who are chasing a playoff place. Henri Lansbury missed Scunthorpe’s midweek 3-3 thriller at Northampton with an ankle injury but returned on Friday night to play in the second half away to Leicester, turning in a useful performance to earn a 2-2 draw and continue their chase for a playoff spot themselves. Yeovil aren’t safe yet at the other end, but that’s not for the lack of Jonathan Obika goals. The Spurs loanee scored again for the Glovers, his fourth of a successful loan spell, in a 1-1 draw with Tranmere, after making way midweek in a 2-2 draw with Hereford in which goalkeeper Chris Weale scored a dramatic equaliser deep into stoppage time.
Portsmouth’s reserves, featuring Gael N’Lundulu (for 70 minutes) and Gauthier Mahoto but not Paris-Cowan Hall, beat West Ham’s 1-0 with impressive outings from both Frenchmen. And, finally, on this whistlestop tour of the country, Mikel San Jose was Man of the Match and Gerardo Bruna scored a late winner for a Liverpool team without Dani Pacheco in a 2-1 reserve win over Hull City to lift the defending Champions off the bottom of the table.