In another busy week of action for Southampton’s loanees, Will Smallbone and Luke Pearce hit the headlines at contrasting ends of the football pyramid after some stellar performances. This and more in this week’s Loan Watch…
After playing 45 minutes off the bench in midweek against Brighton in the Emirates FA Cup, Smallbone returned to Stoke’s starting line-up to play a key part in their 5-1 dismantling of Sunderland at the weekend.
The Potters ran riot at the Stadium of Light as Smallbone registered a hat-trick of assists, teeing up Josh Laurent and Tyrese Campbell for the game’s first two goals before capping off proceedings by providing Dwight Gayle with the final finish.
Playing in a more advanced role helped Smallbone get forward and it paid off, taking the midfielder’s tally to four assists for the season as Stoke move up to 16th in the Championship table.
In the National League South, B team striker Pearce enjoyed a fantastic week with Eastbourne Borough as he scored three goals in two games to help his side pick up four points.
In midweek, he was the hero against Taunton Town as he scored twice in the second half to help Eastbourne come back and win 2-1; the first goal was a curling, left-footed effort from the edge of the area with the second being an instinctive finish from close range.
Then, at the weekend, Pearce scored his side’s second goal in a 2-2 draw against playoff-chasing Chelmsford with another excellent strike from the edge of the box.
His exploits earned him the club’s Man of the Match award on Saturday as well as a place in the league’s Team of the Week.
Back in the top two divisions in England, Jack Stephens maintained his Premier League starting place for Bournemouth with his fifth successive full 90 minutes as the Cherries were beaten at the death by Arsenal in a remarkable 3-2 result.
Meanwhile, Nathan Tella came off the bench for Burnley in their midweek FA Cup victory over Fleetwood Town, before playing the full 90 in the 0-0 league draw against Blackpool.
Down a division in League One, both Dynel Simeu and Caleb Watts came off the bench for Morecambe in their goalless draw against playoff contenders Bolton Wanderers.
On the opposing team, Dan Nlundulu continued to make his steady return from injury as he too made a cameo off the bench in the game’s closing stages.
Since coming back to fitness two weeks ago, Nlundulu has made three successive sub appearances for Bolton including another late display in a midweek defeat against Portsmouth.
League Two, Kazeem Olaigbe continued to impress during his start to life at Harrogate Town.
The Yorkshire club had an unbeaten week with a 1-1 draw against promotion challengers Northampton in midweek, followed by a goalless draw against Gillingham at the weekend that saw Olaigbe earn the club’s Man of the Match award.
Ryan Finnigan also picked up a point at the weekend as he played just over 50 minutes in Crewe Alexandra’s 1-1 draw away to Sutton United.
Outside of the EFL, Nico Lawrence had another two games in a week with Torquay United as their bid for survival in the National League continues.
The young centre-back remains a first-choice name in the Gulls’ back line, playing the full 90 in a narrow defeat away to playoff chasers Bromley as well as a 1-1 draw away to Aldershot Town.
Following his impressive first month in Devon, Lawrence was chosen as a nominee for the club’s February Player of the Month award with the winner yet to be announced.
Another Academy centre-back, Will Tizzard, has also established himself as a key player since returning to Chippenham Town as he made two full 90 appearances in the week in draws against playoff contenders Worthing and relegation rivals Concord Rangers.
The Bluebirds have remarkably drawn six games in a row but by remaining unbeaten they have moved up to 21st in the league, one point from safety with games in hand on teams above them.
Finally, up in Scotland, Thierry Small made his third start in a row for St Mirren but couldn’t help them avoid defeat to Celtic as he played just over an hour against the league leaders.