I suspect Portsmouth fans are holding their breath at the moment after learning that Michael Appleton is the favourite for the vacant Blackpool job. Despite Tuesday night's loss to Brentford at Fratton Park, making it three npower League 1 defeats on the bounce, things on the pitch at least seemed to be on the up for Pompey and now they could lose their manager.

It's not a done deal. Michael says there have been no talks with Blackpool and caretaker Steve Thompson has gone on the record that he wants the job full-time at Bloomfield Road but it must still be worrying times for the Pompey faithful. They've become used to getting bad news but this would be another body blow.

It's difficult to overstate how good a job Michael has done at Portsmouth. The financial meltdown at the club has given him so many problems not of his own making and for me for Pompey to be sitting in 17th in the table is a minor miracle.

If he were to leave Fratton Park, I expect a section of the supporters would accuse him of jumping ship but I think that would be harsh. He's done a year in one of the toughest jobs in football at the moment and I can understand why he'd be tempted by a club with some stability and a squad with potential.

Portsmouth face Bury on Saturday and after the Shakers' 2-1 win at Oldham Athletic on Tuesday - their first win on the road this season - they'll face a side that looks like it's turning the corner.

Kevin Blackwell didn't initially wave a magic wand when he took over from Peter Shirtliff in September but things seem to be clicking now and Kevin has been full of praise for the players on loan at Gigg Lane.

There's definitely an art to making loan signings and while there may be no transfer fee involved, it doesn't mean it doesn't come without risk when you bring a new player in. You've got to ask yourself whether the player is going to fit in and whether they'll have a passion for the club despite the move only being temporary.

The big dilemma can be the expectations of the loaning club. Premier League and npower Championship clubs send players out on the understanding they're going to get first-team football and you've got a problem if you have them kicking their heels on the bench. That can damage the relationship with the loaning club and jeopardise your chances of doing future deals.

Kevin seems to have avoided those pitfalls so far with the likes of Dominic Poleon and Zac Thompson from Leeds United, Matt Doherty from Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tom Hopper from Leicester City and Bury are reaping the rewards, although there's still a lot of work still to be done.

The other problem can be the mindset of the individual player. Some arrive full of enthusiasm and eager to impress but others feel being loaned out is a kick in the teeth. It's the manager's job to make them see the deal as an opportunity to impress the parent club rather than some kind of demotion.

My own experience of making loan signings was overwhelmingly positive. I got Daniel Nardiello from Manchester United at Barnsley and eventually signed him permanently. He had exactly the right attitude and although he never made it at Old Trafford, he's had a good career because he didn't sulk or feel sorry for himself.

It was a good weekend for npower League 1 clubs in the first round of the FA Cup and only Colchester United, Swindon Town and Scunthorpe United went out, which means the division will be well represented in the next round.

There are certainly some exciting matches in the cup next month. The Oldham Athletic and Doncaster Rovers game looks tasty and Bournemouth travel to Carlisle United for a fascinating fixture. Brunton Park is one of the toughest grounds to play in the division but Eddie Howe has rejuvenated the Cherries since he came in and it's a tough one to call. It's long haul from the south coast to Carlisle, which could juts tip in favour of the Cumbrians.

The stand-out match however could be MK Dons against AFC Wimbledon. They've both got to get past replays against Cambridge City and York City respectively to make it through but it would be one hell of a match if they did meet.

We all know the history between the two clubs and while the Dons would be the favourites, it would be a potential banana skin. AFC would probably get all the neutral support and while Dons boss Karl Robinson has said publicly he'd relish the game, maybe privately he'd rather face York.

The second round is a fascinating stage of the FA Cup for the npower League 1 clubs. The third round has the glamour and the first round is symbolic start of the competition proper but the second round is the one where you're just one victory away from a potential clash with one of the big boys. It's tantalisingly close.

Chairmen in particular suddenly start thinking about a massive potential pay day. It can transform the club's finances and for managers and players it is a rare opportunity to test themselves against the heavyweights.