Sheffield United loan watch: Rhys Norrington-Davies 'excellent' on Stoke City debut as George Broadbent makes Beerschot bow
Sheffield United’s quest to make it a hat-trick of wins in just eight days was dashed as they were swept aside by Tottenham Hotspur at Bramall Lane yesterday.
The error-ridden defeat against Jose Mourinho’s side, as well as victory for Brighton & Hove Albion at Leeds United, leaves the Blades 11 points away from safety at the foot of the Premier League table.
But what about the players who are not currently part of the first team picture at Bramall Lane?
Let’s take a look to see if they performed any better at the weekend than their parent club.
The 28-year-old midfielder is currently on a season-long loan with Championship side Nottingham Forest.
Freeman, who joined United for a then club record £5m from Queens Park Rangers in the summer of 2019, has recovered from surgery to correct a hernia problem and has now returned to training.
However, Nottinghamshire Live reports that Freeman, who has made 10 appearances and netted one goal so far this season, is a few weeks away from being available for selection.
And despite the Blades being hit by injury problems of their own as well positive Covid-19 tests, manager Chris Wilder says the former Arsenal and Bristol City man will see out the remainder of his loan spell at the City Ground.
"No, he's there for the season," said Wilder.
Wales under-21 international Norrington-Davies was recalled from his season-long loan at Luton Town last week to allow him to join the Hatters’ Championship rivals Stoke City until the end of the current campaign.
The 21-year-old left-back, who produced some excellent displays for the Kenilworth Road outfit which led to him earning three full Wales caps, put pen to paper on a new long-term contract with the Blades last month.
He made his first start for the Potters in their 1-1 draw against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Saturday and won praise from his new boss, Michael O’Neill.
“I thought he was excellent,” said O’Neill. “It was a really good debut. We knew what we were getting when we brought him in, a young player who played with great confidence and real aggression in his play.
"He got forward at every opportunity. He combined really well with Nick Powell and Jordan Thompson on that side.”
And Peter Smith, of StokeonTrent Live, gave Norrington-Davies a rating of seven and wrote: “What a difference one player makes. Stoke so much better for a left-back – and an attacking left-back in good form.”
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 returned to Bramall Lane last week after making two appearances in all competitions north of the border.
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 was once again an unused substitute in John Sheridan’s side’s 2-1 home defeat against Doncaster Rovers on Saturday.
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 has scored five goals in 14 matches across the Channel.
But he couldn’t add to his tally as Beerschot were beaten 3-0 at home by table-topping Club Brugge yesterday, a result which leaves them in 10th place and 15 points behind the league leaders.
Coulibaly was substituted in the 88th minute and was replaced by fellow Blade loanee, George Broadbent.
The 20-year-old midfielder joined Coulibaly at Beerschot last week on a deal until the end of the season.
Broadbent – who has been in decent form for the Blades’ under 23s this season, scoring four goals and providing three assists – made his debut as an 88th minute substitute, replacing Coulibaly, in Beerschot’s 3-0 defeat against Club Brugge yesterday.
Academy manager Jack Lester said he was delighted the youngster had taken the opportunity to continue his development abroad.
"George had a few options and chose to go and challenge himself in Belgium's top league with Beerschot," he said. "It's great that he relished that challenge.”
The 20-year-old central defender is expected to return from his second loan spell with National League outfit Notts County in the coming days.
He played in the 2-1 win at Stockport County in the FA Trophy on Saturday and speaking after the game, Notts boss Neal Ardley conceded that Graham is likely to come back to United.
"I think he will go back, Sheffield, I think feel they need a bit of a reset with him,” he said. “They will want to get him back and playing, he missed those nine or ten months last season with his achilles injury. He did well today, that was his best performance and he was the Sam Graham of old."
United allowed the 21-year-old midfielder to join League One outfit Hull City on a season-long loan in November and has made 15 appearances so far for the Tigers – but was an unused substitute in the 1-1 draw with Blackpool at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday.
Jéan Leroy Belehouan
The 20-year-old French central defender joined National League Premier side FC Halifax Town on loan for the remainder of the season earlier this month.
Belehouan, who is a second-year scholar with the Blades and plays for the under 23s, was not in action on Saturday as the Shaymen’s home game with Southport in the FA Trophy was postponed due to a frozen pitch.