Loan watch: Back-to-back starts for Akinola and Kemp
West Ham United’s young loanees enjoyed plenty of match action over the festive season, with two Academy products making back-to-back starts in the Football League.
In League Two, defender Olatunji Akinola’s return to Leyton Orient’s starting eleven coincided with two clean sheets and two home victories for the O’s.
Having had a spell out of Ross Embleton’s side, 22-year-old Akinola returned in a more familiar role of centre-back, impressing in a 2-0 win over Southend United on 29 December before playing an equally important role in the 1-0 home win over Salford City on Saturday.
Akinola made an impressive two tackles, two interceptions, two clearances and three successful aerial duels in the win against Southend, as second-half strikes from Jobi McAnuff and Conor Wilkinson sealed the three points at The Breyer Group Stadium.
Against Salford – Akinola’s tenth League Two start of the season – the centre-back’s display was even more crucial as Danny Johnson’s 31st-minute snapshot from the edge of the area proved the difference overall.
The visitors had chances early on but Akinola and his Leyton Orient teammates grew into the game, battling hard to hold onto their lead – aided by a further five interceptions and two clearances by the West Ham loanee.
Back-to-back clean sheets – and back-to-back wins – have boosted the O’s up to ninth in the table, just a point off the Play-Off places.
Following such solid form, Akinola will be hoping to retain his place in the side when Leyton Orient travel to league leaders Carlisle United next Saturday.
Elsewhere in the Football League, fellow Academy of Football product Dan Kemp also enjoyed back-to-back starts for Blackpool FC, playing in the 1-0 and 2-1 away losses to Shrewsbury and Bristol Rovers respectively.
The 21-year-old finished the month of November strongly, making a big impact in cup competitions, and was duly granted the opportunity to impress in the league by Tangerines manager Neil Critchley.
Despite coming close early on against Shrewsbury with a fierce strike, Kemp was unable to add to his tally during the narrow defeat, but threatened enough during his 65-minute appearance to start against Bristol Rovers four days later.
The Memorial Stadium witnessed the Seasiders creating numerous opportunities and go 1-0 up inside the eight minutes through Gary Madine, only for Bristol Rovers to strike twice in two minutes before the break to turn things around.
Kemp was replaced with ten minutes to go as Critchley sought to find an equaliser, but it wasn’t to be for Blackpool, whose next game is at home to West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.
In Super League Greece, Xande Silva will be the third West Ham loanee hoping to make consecutive starts for his adopted club when Aris Thessaloniki FC return to action away at PAS Lamia later on Monday.
The Portuguese youngster has enjoyed a productive first half of the season on loan at the Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium, and will hope to further that when Aris resume their season following a two-week festive break in Greek football.