THE EASTER weekend provided Stoke City’s seven players out on loan with mixed fortunes . . . as the Football League campaign drew closer towards a dramatic climax.
The bank holiday double headers helped shape things up at both the top and bottom of the three leagues outside the top-flight; each of which has representation from at least one current Potters first-teamer.
In the Championship, Jack Butland was a mere spectator in front of the live television cameras, as the Blues stunned promotion chasers Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park with a remarkable 4-0 victory on Friday
It was a different story altogether for the highly rated England international on Monday though, as he gave away a crucial penalty en-route to a forgettable 3-2 home defeat against near-neighbours Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Matthew Upson played the full 90 minutes for play-off hopefuls Brighton & Hove Albion meanwhile, as they held in-form Nottingham Forest to a 2-2 draw at the City Ground.
The hosts, who are vying with the Seagulls for a top-six spot, came from behind twice in the game to salvage a point and keep themselves in contention for a much sought after top-six berth.
Upson and co can establish a four-point cushion between themselves and Billy Davies’ outfit this evening (7:45pm), although they will need to keep a certain Ricardo Fuller at bay if they are to overcome Charlton
Athletic at the Amex Stadium.
Injury victim Rory Delap was forced to watch from the sidelines as Barnsley maintained their unlikely bid to beat the drop with a crucial 2-0 success against plummeting Leicester City on Bank Holiday Monday.
The Tykes still have it all to do if they are to retain their Championship status however, having slipped to a 2-1 defeat against fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday at Oakwell, 72 hours earlier.
Belgian Under 21 international Florent Cuvelier was forced to wait for his eagerly anticipated Championship bow, as Peterborough United boss Darren Ferguson opted to keep the youngster on the bench as his side
secured a surprising 2-1 win against league leaders Cardiff City.
The midfielder could be in-line to make his first appearance for Posh this evening though, having been named as part of the travelling party making their way north to take on Middlesbrough.
All three points in the North East for United would be enough to see them elevate themselves out of the drop zone with Sheffield Wednesday the side likely to be plunged deeper into trouble at their expense.
In League One, Mamady Sidibe played all 180 minutes of Tranmere Rovers’ two encounters, however, it was to be a weekend of major disappointment for the Malian as his side slipped out of the play-off places.
A narrow 1-0 defeat at home to Sheffield United on Saturday was followed up by another 1-0 defeat on Monday, this time on the south coast, against Portsmouth.
Those back-to-back defeats mean Ronnie Moore’s side find themselves in seventh position, two points behind Yeovil who occupy the final play-off spot, having played a game more.
Academy starlet James Alabi came off the bench in each of Scunthorpe United’s two league encounters, but was unable to make a major impact in either as the Iron picked up three points from a possible six.
Alabi featured for the final 15 minutes of each of the two games, a 2-1 home victory against Leyton Orient and a 1 defeat against promotion chasing Bournemouth.
Finally, in League Two, Matthew Lund helped his Southend United teammates to a 2-2 draw against League Cup runners up Bradford City on Monday, before watching from the bench as the side were held to
another draw by Fleetwood Town.
Phil Brown’s side remain six points adrift of the play-off places with just five games remaining, meaning a promotion push for the young City midfielder is unlikely.
He can however look forward to a trip to Wembley Stadium this coming Sunday however, as he and his United teammates travel to the capital to take on former side Crewe Alexandra in the Final of the
Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.