Sheffield United loan watch: Luke Freeman nears return at Nottingham Forest after hernia operation as youngster is benched by Hull City

Sheffield United kicked off the new year like they ended the last one – by losing yet another football match.
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Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Crystal Palace leaves Chris Wilder’s outfit firmly entrenched at the bottom of the Premier League having made the worst start ever by a top flight side.

No wins and just two draws from their opening 17 games means United begin 2021 a desperate 12 points adrift of safety as their nightmare run shows no sign of ending.

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But what about the players who are not currently part of the first team picture at Bramall Lane?

Sheffield United's Luke Freeman is currently on a season-long loan at Nottingham Forest.  (Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)Sheffield United's Luke Freeman is currently on a season-long loan at Nottingham Forest.  (Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Sheffield United's Luke Freeman is currently on a season-long loan at Nottingham Forest. (Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Let’s take a look to see how they fared at the weekend and whether they had a better time of it than their parent club.

Luke Freeman

The 28-year-old midfielder is currently on a season-long loan with Championship strugglers Nottingham Forest.

Freeman, who joined United for a then club record £5m from Queens Park Rangers in the summer of 2019, is currently recovering from surgery to correct a hernia problem and is expected to return to training either this week or next.

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“I would say he would be available to play in two to three weeks,” said Forest manager Chris Hughton, speaking last week.

Freeman has made 10 appearances for the Reds and has scored once.

Rhys Norrington-Davies

Wales under-21 international Norrington-Davies is on loan at Championship side Luton Town for the 2020/21 campaign.

The 21-year-old has produced some excellent displays for the Hatters which has led to him earning three full Wales caps, as well as a new long-term contract with the Blades which he penned earlier this month.

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Norrington-Davies, who will remain with the Bedfordshire club for the remainder of his loan spell, was not in action at weekend due to Luton’s home game with Queens Park Rangers being postponed following a Covid-19 outbreak at Kenilworth Road.

Jake Eastwood

The 24-year-old goalkeeper joined Scottish Premiership outfit Kilmarnock in July on a six-month loan but suffered a thigh injury on his debut against Hibernian in early August which kept him out of action for three months. He wasn’t in the matchday squad for the 1-1 draw with St Mirren in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday.

David Parkhouse

The Northern Ireland under-21 international forward’s loan spell with National League side Hartlepool United has come to an end.

Parkhouse joined Pools in September but was limited to just four starts and five substitute appearances in all competitions, scoring just twice.

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The 21-year-old hadn’t started a league match for United since October and had been allowed to return to Northern Ireland to be with his family over the festive period, bringing his time in the North East to a premature end.

Speaking last week about Parkhouse, Pools boss Dave Challinor said: "Parky is a really good lad and things haven’t turned out how anyone would have wanted.

“We thought we really had someone who could be that goal getter for us but with things like international duty and little niggles and that, it just hasn’t transpired.

"Hopefully he goes back and potentially goes out on another loan, he certainly has the ability to score goals at this level, it just hasn’t worked for him here.”

Tyler Smith

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Twenty-two-year-old striker Smith joined League One outfit Swindon Town on a season-long loan in August.

The forward, who has not made a senior appearance for the Blades, has netted seven goals during his loan spell at the County Ground but wasn’t in action at the weekend following the postponement of the Robins’ home game with Wigan Athletic because of a frozen pitch.

Marcus Dewhurst

Young goalkeeper Dewhurst is to return to Bramall Lane after a half-season loan spell with League Two outift Carlisle United.

The 19-year-old stopper joined the Cumbrians at the end of August but only made one appearance for the club, making two crucial saves in an FA Cup penalty shoot-out win at Hayes & Yeading in November.

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However, Blues boss Chris Beech says the door will remain open for Dewhurst at Brunton Park.

Ismaila Coulibaly

Mali under-20 midfielder Coulibaly joined United from Norwegian outfit Sarpsborg 08 earlier this season and was immediately sent out on loan for the next three seasons to high-flying Belgian side Beerschot, the Blades’ sister club.

Coulibaly, who has been named in United’s list of U21 players for the 2020/21 campaign, is more than enjoying life in the Belgian Pro League and played a key role in Beerschot’s fine start to the season.

However, Beerschot lost two games against Anderlecht and Sint-Truiden over the Christmas period and have now slipped to seventh place in the standings.

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Couliably played in both matches and was booked in the 2-0 defeat against Vincent Kompany’s Anderlecht.

Sam Graham

The 20-year-old central defender is on loan at National League outfit Notts County – his second temporary stint with the Magpies – and is currently waiting to discover if he will be recalled by United or remain at Meadow Lane.

Notts’ scheduled game with King’s Lynn on Saturday was postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak at the Norfolk club.

Regan Slater

United allowed the 21-year-old midfielder to join League One outfit Hull City on a season-long loan in November and has made 14 appearances so far for the Tigers – including a last substitute appearance in the 2-0 win over promotion rivals Charlton Athletic at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday.

“A useful 10 minutes as City looked to close it out, will have been frustrated to be benched, though. 6/10,” wrote Barry Cooper, from Hull Live.