From future stars to being benched - how Town's loan players are performing

Clockwise from top: Tomas Holy, Corrie Ndaba and Rekeem Harper are among the Ipswich Town players currently out on loan

Clockwise from top: Tomas Holy, Corrie Ndaba and Rekeem Harper are among the Ipswich Town players currently out on loan - Credit: Archant/PA

Ipswich Town currently have eight potential first team players out on loan. Mark Heath looks at how they're getting on....

Rekeem Harper on the ball.

Midfielder Rekeem Harper is on loan at Crewe - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

Rekeem Harper (Crewe Alexandra)

Of all Town's current loanees, Harper is the most high-profile. Signed last summer in Paul Cook's revolution, he was expected to be among the stars in midfield for the Blues this season, given his impressive pedigree.

But he fell out of the first team picture and hasn't played for Town since that December 1 clash with Arsenal U21s in the EFL Trophy.

He was sent to League One strugglers Crewe for the rest of the season in January, where he's since played eight games, starting six.

Crewe are struggling massively though - bottom of the table and eight points from safety. And, according to fan Russ Fearn, from The Railwaymen Podcast, Harper has yet to impress.

'It’s safe to say that the Alex fans haven’t been too impressed," he said. "He came with a lot of hype, despite not being able to break into an inconsistent Ipswich side, many Alex fans (myself included) were delighted with the signing on paper. Maybe that says more about the calibre of our current squad than the incoming player.

"Since his arrival in January, Crewe have played nine games. Of that, we’ve lost eight and won just one. Coincidentally, that one win happened to be the only game that Harper has played the entire 90 minutes of. Not that he came away from that performance with much credit either.

Rekeem Harper in action against Millwall.

Rekeem Harper is yet to impress at Crewe - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

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"We were in desperate need of a holding midfielder to come and protect the defence. To dictate play and control games. He was thought to be the answer. So far, if he is the answer, then I’m not sure what the question would be.

"Crewe fans are continuously questioning his fitness. He comes across as one of those lethargic players. Slow on the ball, slow off the ball; he’s far from what we expected.

"You can see that there is a quality player in there, but we’re not sure if it’ll ever come out. Little flashes here and there offer some hope, but in general, most Crewe fans would seem to favour the homegrown players over Harper.

"I’m not sure where his best position is yet either. He’s played CDM, LCM and RF for the Alex so far. He hasn’t excelled in any of those positions, it feels as if (David) Artell is using him as a ‘stop-gap’ for when we need a player to fill a certain position. If he became available again after this loan I don’t think Crewe fans will be rushing back to snap him up."

Bailey Clements applauds fans after the 0-0 draw against Oxford United.

Bailey Clements hasn't featured since Paul Cook was sacked in December. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Bailey Clements (Stevenage)

The young left-back came from nowhere to enjoy a run in the starting XI under Paul Cook late last year, but then dropped down the pecking order with the arrival of Dominic Thompson and the switch in formation.

He went to League Two Stevenage in January, where he's played four games, all starts - but hasn't featured since February 19.

Neil Metcalfe, who covers Stevenage for our sister paper The Stevenage Comet, said: "His arrival at the Lamex on January 31 came two days after victory over Harrogate Town, the last time Stevenage picked up three points.

"The two are in no way related but the poor form through February has not helped him settle in quickly.

"He got a start in four fixtures, including the draws away to Crawley Town and Barrow, but his last involvement saw Boro thumped 4-0 at home to Bristol Rovers.

"Manager Paul Tisdale changed the formation after that loss, going from a back four to a three with wing backs, and Clements was one that was dropped in the switch.

"He did have his moments in the four starts but with the boss still searching for the winning formation and combinations, he may have to be patient a little while longer."

Corrie Ndaba is enjoying his loan spell at Salford City

Corrie Ndaba is enjoying his loan spell at Salford City - Credit: Salford City FC

Corrie Ndaba (Salford City)

The young centre-back has long been tipped for a breakthrough at Town, but has never quite made the step up. 

He headed to League Two Salford for a season-long loan last August, with hopes that he could follow in the footsteps of Luke Woolfenden, who impressed during his time at that level with Swindon Town.

The 22-year-old started well but then suffered an injury which kept him out from the end of October until the middle of January. 

He's played 22 games so far, with 20 starts in the league. And Charlie Gregory,  a freelance journalist who covers Salford for the Manchester Evening News, says the Irish talent shows real promise.

"Although Ndaba started the season as a central defender, he’s since moved out to left-back after his return from injury," he explained.

"What’s most impressive about that is that he’s kept Ibou Touray out of the lineup in recent weeks - a Salford fan favourite who was in the League Two Team of the Season last year. That in itself says how big of an impression he’s made on boss Gary Bowyer and how impressive he’s been for the side.

"He’s got every attribute you need to be a successful modern day defender. He’s quick, strong and very capable technically - Ndaba will often be given the ball in tight spaces, but he’s more than able of playing his way out of a high press.

"The fact that he’s played anywhere from centre-back to the left side of defence to even central midfield - all in a range of systems and formations - highlights both his versatility and his footballing intelligence.

“Given his experience this season, I think he’d be perfect for the left side of a back three system, which I’m sure will give food-for-thought for Kieran McKenna come the summer.

"He reminds me a lot of Di’Shon Bernard who impressed on loan from Manchester United last season, again across a number of positions in Salford’s defence.

"He’s since joined Hull City in the Championship and comfortably adapted to a higher division, and I have no doubt that Ndaba will be able to follow in his footsteps.”

Ipswich Town defender Corrie Ndaba has joined Salford City on loan.

Ipswich Town defender Corrie Ndaba has joined Salford City on loan. - Credit: Salford City FC

Gregory added: "He’s been a really important figure for Salford this season and will be decisive in their late promotion push. Given where he was at the start of the year, with only 14 senior league appearances to his name, he’s come on leaps and bounds.

"It’s a real testament to him that he’s now so crucial to Salford, especially considering the injuries he’s overcome and his inexperience as a 22-year-old.

“As mentioned, I think he’d be a shoe-in for Ipswich if McKenna continues to persist with a back three. Given his age and attributes, he has the ability to play at a high level with the right coaching behind him.

"He’s certainly capable of making the jump up to League One next season and if his defending continues to improve, he’ll eventually be playing at a level even higher than that.”

Colchester United's Armando Dobra breaks during the Papa John's Trophy match at the JobServe Communi

Armando Dobra scored his first goal for Colchester United last night. - Credit: PA

Myles Kenlock and Armando Dobra (Colchester United)

Creative spark Dobra headed down the A12 to join the Town old boys reunion for a season-long loan in August, and was followed in January by left back Kenlock.

Dobra's played 17 games, including 13 starts, and scored two goals for the U's, who were in real relegation strife at one point. But he's not been seen since a January 4 EFL Trophy defeat to Sutton United, and has even been playing for Colchester's U23 side recently.

Kenlock's had differing fortunes, scoring on his U's debut and establishing himself as a starter. He's played 13 times so far, with 12 starts, and netted twice.

Myles Kenlock warms up at Priestfield.

Myles Kenlock isn't in Ipswich Town's registered 22-man senior squad for league games. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Carl Marston, who covered Colchester for the EADT for many years, said: "Kenlock has been a regular feature of the U's defence since mid-January, impressing at left-back and weighing in with a couple of goals.

"Kenlock netted on his first U's league appearance, a 3-0 win away at Salford City, and bagged his second for the Essex club in a 2-2 home draw against Leyton Orient at the start of this month.

"Meanwhile, little has been seen of Armando Dobra since the turn of the year. He blew hot and cold during the first half of the season, scoring a couple of goals, in the Football League Trophy against West Ham Under-21s and in the league against lowly Scunthorpe United.

"But Dobra's last league outing was way back on January 1, a 3-1 defeat at Crawley Town, although interim boss Wayne Brown insisted last month that he still had a part to play in the squad."

Tomas Holy named on the bench at AFC Wimbledon.

Tomas Holy named on the bench at AFC Wimbledon. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Tomas Holy (Port Vale)

The big friendly keeper has become something of a fan favourite at Portman Road, but found himself third choice after the arrivals of Christian Walton and Vaclav Hladky.

Thus, he headed out on loan - firstly an emergency two-game spell down the A14 at Cambridge United, before departing for the rest of the season to League Two play-off chasers Port Vale.

He's since played nine games, keeping three clean sheets, before being dropped from the starting XI.

Jonny Hancock, from the Ale and Vale Podcast, said Holy hasn't impressed.

"He came with promise, he's 6ft 9ins, imposing and looks the part," he explained. "That's where the positives end. He's very slow off his line, his kicking is long but erratic and for someone his size he has zero command of his area.

"Whilst never being directly at fault for a goal, the fact he's static on his line really doesn't help a defence that isn't blessed with pace.

"You only have to look at the goal he conceded vs Colchester (1-0 defeat) to see the issues as we conceded from a corner which was in the six-yard box.

"You'd have expected him come get it easily but instead he plants his feet and ducks. It's a rather unsuccessful spell at Port Vale and it's resulted in him being dropped after nine games in which he kept three clean sheets and conceded six goals."

Brett McGavin - Ipswich's loss is King's Lynn Town's gain

Brett McGavin in action for King's Lynn Town - Credit: Ian Burt

Brett McGavin (King's Lynn Town)

The homegrown midfielder has played 11 times for Town's senior side, but was told he could depart last summer by Cook. With a year left on his contract, he headed to National League King's Lynn for the season.

He's played 27 times for the relegation-haunted Linnets, starting 15 games and scoring three goals - including a cracker last weekend.

But Eastern Daily Press sports editor Chris Lakey, who covers King's Lynn, said McGavin hasn't really established himself.

"It's a tough gig playing centre mid for a team that is facing a mammoth battle against relegation," he explained. 

"One thing you can almost guarantee from McGavin is that he would win any pass of the game competition - a first-time ball out to the right flank against Woking last week was perfection.

"Perhaps lacks the physicality required at National League level - but he's not alone in the Linnets dressing room in that respect."

Ben Morris pictured during Town U23s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at Playford Road Photo: ROSS HALLS

Ben Morris pictured during Town U23s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at Playford Road Photo: ROSS HALLS - Credit: Archant

Ben Morris (GAIS, Sweden)

The promising young forward headed out to Swedish First Division side GAIS in January, following in the footsteps of former Town prospects Aaron Drinan and Harry Wright.

Though they've yet to start their league season, the side have played three cup games, winning one and losing two.

Morris, 22, has played twice so far, starting and playing the full 90 minutes, but has yet to score.