By Nick Ware

4th Jan, 2021 | 12:33pm

Play-off hopefuls ponder loan move for Everton defender - report

Blackburn Rovers are monitoring Everton youngster Jarrad Branthwaite ahead of a potential January loan move, according to the Lancashire Telegraph.

The 18-year-old has only played once for the Toffees this campaign, in a 3-0 win against Salford City on September 16, and a Championship loan move looks like being the next stage of his development.

Branthwaite appeared in Everton’s last four Premier League games last season but has failed to break into the side this term, with Yerry Mina, Michael Keane, Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey all comfortably ahead in the central defender pecking order.

Therefore, a loan switch to a side five points off the Championship play-off spots seems like a sensible decision to gain some playing time for a player that spent part of last season at League Two Carlisle United, if Blackburn opt to place their faith in the young defender.

The Lancashire Telegraph reports that Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray watched Branthwaite in their Under-23 fixture with Everton earlier this season, and could move for him after suffering a defensive injury crisis with Daniel Ayala, Derrick Williams and Scott Wharton all ruled out of the side.

However, they also report that Manchester City’s Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Merseyside rival Liverpool’s Sepp Van den Berg are also being considered as options.

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Defensive discipline proving key for Everton

Manager Carlo Ancelotti is unlikely to be too concerned if Branthwaite does secure a temporary move away from Goodison Park, with a wealth of defensive options at his disposal.

Mina and Keane have been first choice at the heart of the Everton defence for much of the season, with Holgate and Godfrey also solid options that are capable of replacing them in the side, or if Ancelotti opts for three centre backs as he has done so on occasion.

The Blues have proven to be a resolute side of late, with a steadily improving defensive record doing much to propel themselves to the upper echelons of the Premier League.

Everton have only conceded two goals in their last five league games, a vast improvement from the 18 they had shipped in the previous 11.

This has included clean sheets against Chelsea and Leicester City as the Toffees have shown themselves to be mean protectors of Jordan Pickford’s goal.

At just 18, Branthwaite has plenty of time to assert himself as an Everton first-team player, and the quality on show at the moment means he might be best suited to gaining experience in the Championship before trying his hand again in the summer.

In other Everton news, £31m fee mooted as Kean-PSG talks commence.