Loan Watch: Ajibola Alese wins on first start for Cambridge United
Ajibola Alese made his first start for Cambridge United as one of four West Ham United loanees in action this weekend.
The 20-year-old Academy of Football graduate, who has been with the Irons since the age of seven, was deployed at left-back by U’s boss Mark Bonner as they sought to bounce back from defeat at Bolton last week.
Standing in their way on Saturday was a trip to face Oldham Athletic, who got off to the best possible start at Boundary Park with two clinical finishes from Davies Keillor-Dunn inside the opening minutes.
Yet aware that a win was required to keep them in the running for the League Two title, Cambridge rallied and pulled one goal back shortly after from the penalty spot, Paul Mullin converting after Greg Taylor had been felled inside the area.
And the turnaround was complete before half-time as a midfielder’s brace of Cambridge’s own turned the score-line on its head, Jack Iredale first hammering in a deflected shot before finding the bottom corner from Mullin’s backheeled set-up.
Alese departed the field of play with an hour on the clock as Cambridge looked to hold out amidst waves of pressure in the second half, but thankfully a late corner kick from Luke Hannant – Alese’s replacement – went directly in to seal the result and the three points.
Cambridge currently sit in second place in League Two, one point behind leaders Cheltenham, albeit having played two fixtures more.
Another West Ham loanee flying high in his adopted division is Winston Reid, who played the full 90 minutes and kept another clean sheet as Brentford won 1-0 away at Blackburn Rovers on Friday.
Ivan Toney’s tenth-minute penalty kick was enough to keep the Bees’ promotion chase on course at Ewood Park, but it was a win that Reid and his defensive colleagues were forced to work hard for as Blackburn pushed forward in search of an equaliser.
Reid was particularly involved in the second half at the heart of a fine defensive effort, producing an excellent block to prevent Harvey Elliott from equalising before coming close to scoring himself from Saman Ghaddos’ cross, only to glance wide.
Brentford’s win sees them in fourth in the Championship table, ten points within the play-off places and only three behind Watford in the automatic promotion spots, with a game in hand to boot.
Also chasing promotion are Oladapo Afolayan and Bolton Wanderers in League Two, for whom a second-half Gethin Jones strike was enough to see off Port Vale 1-0 at Vale Park on Saturday afternoon.
Despite having the majority of the possession, a hard-fought game produced few chances for Afolayan and his attacking team-mates, but Ian Evatt’s team held out in the face of Port Vale pressure to stretch their unbeaten run to eleven consecutive matches.
Bolton rise to sixth in the League Two standings, but are remarkably just five points off leaders Cheltenham, with plenty to play for in their final eleven games of the season.
And in Super League Greece, Xande Silva played the first hour for Aris Thessaloniki FC in a 1-0 win over OFI Crete as his adopted club finished in second place in the regular round of fixtures.
Silva recorded his third assist – adding to three goals – in his 21st appearance of the season, pouncing on a defensive miscommunication to square for Kostas Mitroglou to fire home the winner at Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium after six minutes.
Aris, Silva and the other top six sides in Super League Greece will now enter championship play-offs to determine the 2020/21 title winner and European qualifiers for next season.
Elsewhere in League Two, Olatunji Akinola was an unused substitute as Leyton Orient’s winless streak continued with a 1-1 draw at home to Scunthorpe. The O’s are now eleven games without a victory.
And in the Swiss Super League, fellow Academy defender Gonçalo Cardoso was an unused substitute as FC Basel finally ended their own winless run, defeating Luzern 4-1 at St Jakob-Park for their first win in some eight matches.