Taiwo Awoniyi – Royal Excel Mouscron
Royal Excel Mouscron started their complicated journey to the Europa League in emphatic fashion, with a dominating 3-0 win over Lierse, a team from the second tier of Belgian football. The teams ranked from seventh to 15th in the Jupiler League are joined by three teams from the Second Division to form two groups of six teams. The winners of these two groups will compete in a single match to determine the winner of this playoff stage. They will then play the fifth-placed team from the Championship Playoff group, with the winner taking the final Belgian Europa League spot. Simple.
Taiwo Awoniyi helped his side to the important away win by netting their third and final goal of the evening. The striker picked up the ball on the edge of the area and used a skillful fake shot to shake off two defenders. This gave himself enough room to complete the move with a tidy finish into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal. The strike was Awoniyi’s ninth of the campaign as he appears to go from strength to strength in Europe.
Andy Firth – Chester
It was a mixed performance from Andy Firth when Chester lost a six-pointer against Torquay United on Saturday. Both teams are battling to stay in the National League, but the 2-0 defeat for Chester means that they have drifted even further from safety. Firth was beaten just three minutes into the match and will have been disappointed to let the ball past him at his near post from such a tight angle.
He didn’t have much else to do until the second half when he made an excellent reaction save to stop one of his teammates scoring a headed own goal. The goalkeeper was called back into action just ten seconds later when a Torquay player danced his way through the Chester defence before shooting from just a few yards out. This time Firth was stronger at his near post and beat the venomous strike away from his goal with a powerful left hand.
Sadly, both those saves were in vain as Torquay doubled their lead from the resulting corner and there was absolutely nothing Firth could do as he was let down by his defence once again and a striker was gifted with a free header from close range.
Fast forward to Monday and Chester took on league leaders Macclesfield Town in the Cheshire derby. It was a quieter afternoon for Firth whose goal was under plenty of fire, but the opposition’s strikers struggled to consistently hit the target. Apart from a couple of routine saves and a slightly more impressive one from a deflected shot in the 84th-minute, the goalkeeper had very little to do. He was beaten once, however, but it was another goal that could be put down to the ineptitude of the Chester defenders. The final score was 1-0 to Macclesfield.
Jon Flanagan – Bolton Wanderers
Despite there being not too much time left in the season, Jon Flanagan is slowly finding his feet in the Bolton Wanderers side. He put in a decent shift against Leeds but there was nothing he could do stop his side falling to a 2-1 defeat. Leeds appeared to target Flanagan, but he held his own, making five clearances, two tackles and one interception. He also looked comfortable with the ball at his feet and this was proven by the fact that he had more touches of the football than any other player on the pitch. Flanagan has had a difficult time of it this year, but he is settling into life in the Championship and will be optimistic of a strong finish to the campaign.
Marko Grujic – Cardiff City
Cardiff continued their push for an automatic promotion spot by securing their eighth league win in a row. The 3-1 win over Burton Albion means that the Welsh side are now seven points ahead of Sheyi Ojo’s Fulham, and they even have a game in hand. Marko Grujic was once again solid in front of the back four winning three aerial headers and even finding the time to produce three shots, although only one of them troubled the goalkeeper. However, the midfielder is still struggling with his passing accuracy, this time he completed only 57% of his attempts.
Pedro Chirvella – Willem II
Willem II held on to an exciting 3-2 victory at the weekend, despite playing the last 11 minutes with only ten men. Pedro Chirivella kept himself out of trouble during the match with FC Utrecht as he once again played a quiet, but important, role in midfield. Chirivella made three tackles and two interceptions as he was more beneficial to his team on the defensive side of the game, especially toward the end of the 90 minutes. The victory keeps Willem II seven points clear of the relegation zone with just five matches still to play.
Matty Virtue – Notts County
Matty Virtue has managed to fight his way back into the Notts County starting eleven on Monday, but not in a way that he would’ve expected. Virtue lined up against Accrington Stanley as a centre-back and ended up not doing too bad of a job. Although his side lost 1-0, he looked somewhat accomplished in the middle of the backline. In fact, it was in his more natural attacking position where he seemed to struggle as he missed two chances that may have rescued a point for Notts. Just after the hour mark, Virtue had a free header which he could not direct goalward, followed by a similar by slighter harder chance in stoppage time, which he also headed wide. The youngster will be grateful for the game time, whatever form it comes in.
Harry Wilson – Hull City
Harry Wilson had an uncharacteristically quiet time of it against Aston Villa when his side battled to a 0-0 draw. Wilson showed shades of his excellence with a couple of dribbles down the left wing but ended up giving the ball away too many times to call his afternoon a success. The Welshman was eventually substituted with 77 minutes on the board and the points were shared.
Ryan Kent – Bristol City
Ryan Kent was limited to just a late second-half appearance on Friday night, but came back into the starting line up for Bristol City on Easter Monday. However, Kent made very little impact during the 57 minutes he was on the pitch, as he displayed none of the skill and talent that has made him such an exciting prospect. It was clear that he has spent a spell away from first-team football and he will need to impress when he gets another chance if he is to continue to get competitive football before the season’s close.
Divock Origi – Wolfsburg
Divock Origi’s loan spell with Wolfsburg continues to fade into insignificance as he started the weekend’s match against Hertha Berlin on the bench. The striker was thrown on with just seven minutes left to play to see if he could help snatch a victory. Unsurprisingly, Origi made very little impact on the game, apart from his two completed passes, and the matchup finished as a goalless draw.
Ovie Ejaria (Sunderland) came back from England age group duty with a slight injury to his back and ribs and was kept out of action on Friday night. There was good news though as he did manage to return for a brief substitute appearance on Monday afternoon. Lazar Markovic (Anderlecht) made only his second appearance in Belgium and was also limited to a run out as a late second-half sub. Connor Randall (Hearts) was an unused sub while Sheyi Ojo (Fulham), Corey Whelan (Yeovil Town) and Allan Rodrigues (Apollon Limassol) were all absent from their matchday squads. Finally, Daniel Sturridge (West Brom) was missing once again through injury.