Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
Tonight’s televised top of the table clash is one to look forward to, and if Wrexham can match what they achieved last time they travelled to Grimsby it’ll be a match to remember as well
Last season’s visit to Blundell Park was a particularly auspicious one. It was Andy Morrell’s first match as Wrexham manager, having been unexpectedly catapulted into the hot seat after Dean Saunders’ sudden departure, and it resulted in an emphatic 3-1 victory.
The scoring was started by a rather fortunate header from Mathias Pogba which looped over a deceived goalkeeper after he managed to nod it onto his own shoulder, but the other two strikes were very high quality as Jay Harris lashed the ball in and Lee Fowler coolly rounded off a fine move.
That result not only got Morrell off to a flying start, but also ended a run of four consecutive Wrexham defeats in Grimsby, our worst ever sequence of losses there. Our last two wins there were well spaced out, in 2004 and 1989, so following it up with another victory would be a rare achievement. We’ve never won two consecutive matches there; indeed, we’ve never won twice there in five years before! In fact, we’ve only scored more than twice in a game at Blundell Park three times in our last twenty visits there.
As you’ll have gathered, The Mariners have held the upper hand over us in recent times. We’ve won just three of our last ten games against them home and away.
It’s an ancient rivalry: we’ve been going there since our first season in the Football League, losing our first match at Blundell Park 2-0 in February 1922.
Tommy Tilston scored the sole hat-trick by a Wrexham player against The Mariners in a 4-0 home victory, in September 1953, and those goals helped to put him equal top of the list of our most successful goal scorers in this fixture with Dave Smallman on five goals. On three are Ron Hewitt, Arfon Griffiths, Graham Whittle and Chris Armstrong, but an unlikely figure coming up on the rails is Jay Harris, who scored past them in each of the last two seasons.
This isn’t just a major match in terms of the league table: it also sees our captain bring up a highly impressive milestone as Dean Keates makes his six hundredth career appearance tonight.
He’s accumulated more yellow cards than goals in those matches, to the tune of seventy two against sixty six, but for such a tigerish presence in midfield has an impressive ability to avoid the ultimate sanction.
He has been sent off just four times in his career, and hasn’t received a red card since he picked up two in the space of four games in 2005 for Lincoln City! As if he knew the way to our hearts, the second was against Chester, and although Lincoln were losing when he was dismissed, they came back despite being a man down to win 3-1!