The Loan (and International) Report: March 21-31

With the last fortnight seeing the football calendar largely taken over by international commitments, the latest instalment of The Loan Report will also catch up on how Chelsea’s youngsters have been doing on their travels.

Starting at home, the international break meant no action in the Premier League and The Championship, but there was selected activity in Leagues One and Two.

Conor Clifford was an unused substitute for Notts County in a narrow 1-0 defeat away to league leaders Brighton, and saw the same fate in their weekend match away to Huddersfield.

He did, however, play 90 minutes for the Irish Under-21 team in a defeat away to Portugal just 24 hours before taking his place on the bench in Yorkshire, and so his lack of action is easily explained.

The Blues also increased their representation in League Two last week when goalkeeper Sam Walker joined Barnet until the end of the season. The 6’6″ stopper became new manager Martin Allen’s first signing at Underhill, with the club’s two other goalies sidelined with injury.

He was thrown in at the deep end on his professional debut, as the basement dwellers hosted runaway leaders Chesterfield. They earned a dramatic late point in a 2-2 draw, and Sam had a respectable, mistake-free outing.

Fellow custodian Rhys Taylor kept another clean sheet for Crewe at home to in-form Accrington Stanley last Tuesday before leaving for international duty, meaning he was absent for Alex’s 1-0 loss at Hereford in the weekend fixture.

Taylor was named in the Welsh Under-21 starting team for a qualifier away to Andorra, and he once more achieved a shutout as an Armand Fajardo own goal gave the visitors all three points.

Staying firmly in the international arena, it’s been a busy week for England across all major age groups, and Chelsea’s youngsters were involved in much of their success.

At Under-21 level, Daniel Sturridge scored his fourth goal for the Three Lions in an impressive 4-0 win away to Denmark. Former Chelsea winger Scott Sinclair was also on the scoresheet, whilst there was also action for Jack Cork, Ryan Bertrand and Josh McEachran.

They returned to home shores to host Iceland in a friendly on Monday night, where Bertrand was named as captain for the first time in a much-changed side. Cork and McEachran were afforded starts whilst Sturridge was given the night off.

All three starters played well, but there was a scare for Cork when he was taken off at the break with heart palpitations. An overnight stay in hospital saw him given the all clear, and he has since returned to Chelsea for further tests before heading back to Burnley.

There was no invovlement at Under-19 level with Billy Clifford and Aziz Deen-Conteh on standby, but Nathaniel Chalobah captained John Peacock’s Under-17s to a surprise qualification for the European Championship finals in May, where they will defend their title from last year.

Wins over Northern Ireland and Belgium meant that they went into the group decider against Spain knowing only a win would do, as their opponents had the advantage on goal difference. Second half goals from Nathan Redmond and Adam Jackson proved enough to secure a 2-1 win and a place amongst the elite eight.

Chalobah will be joined by new Czech striker Dominik Mašek, who qualified earlier this month, and Dutch centre-back Nathan Aké, who completed two of Holland’s three matches and came on as a sub in the other.

At Under-16 level, the Victory Shield resumed this week after a winter (weather-enforced) hiatus extended the competition into the new year. Manager Kenny Swain named two different squads for the matches a week apart, and wins against Northern Ireland (3-0) and Scotland (2-1) sealed a tenth crown for the favourites.

Young Blues Fankaty Dabo and Jordan Houghton started the match in Ballymena – Houghton as captain – with Reece Mitchell coming off the bench. At Morecambe a week later, Alastair Gordon’s second half appearance was the sole Chelsea inclusion, as midfielders John Swift and Ruben Loftus-Cheek withdrew injured.

A winners medal may also go to George Cole, a seventh blue called up in the competition but one who didn’t get off the bench.

Moving around elsewhere, Gokhan Tore played 69 minutes for a Turkey B team in a friendly against Finland’s Under-21 team as manager Guus Hiddink evaluates his wider options ahead of Euro 2012.

The creative winger has previously garnered Under-21 caps and his inclusion in their ‘A2’ squad certainly means he is in the picture for a senior call up.

Croatian goalkeeper Matej Delac played 90 minutes in a 2-1 Under-21 defeat to the Ukraine, before keeping a clean sheet in his 45 minutes at home to Hungary’s junior team.

Jeffrey Bruma returned to fitness to play 90 minutes for the Dutch Under-21 team against Germany, but the Jong Oranje came out on the losing team, falling to a 3-1 defeat.

Germany then took on Italy, where a late Fabio Borini goal saw Ciro Ferrara’s team come back from a two-goal deficit to claim a draw. You can see the forward’s headed goal HERE.

Finally, Milan Lalkovic continued his fledgling Under-21 career with an impressive display in a 3-2 win over Finland before sitting out the second match of the double-header. He created chances and could have had a goal on another day, and will certainly be involved at this level, if not the next, for a while.

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