Forget Wembley: Grimsby will test a Different Wrexham

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Wrexham’s new 4-4-2, impressive at Hereford, moribund against Kidderminster, disastrous at Braintree, will have a thorough examination this afternoon. It’ll be interesting to see if it emerges intact.

I’ve seen a couple of Grimsby’s recent matches and their shape will test our formation thoroughly. Johnny Hunt and Mark Carrington will be absolutely crucial to our approach, both when we have the ball and when we don’t

Grimsby’s compact midfield will ask questions of Wrexham in the middle of the field. When we don’t have the ball, Carrington and Hunt will have to tuck in and try to swamp the middle of the pitch and deny Grimsby space. The Mariners play with a sort of tilted midfield diamond: Scott Kerr anchors, Craig Disley plays to the right but hardly hugs the touchline, while Alex Rodman pushes further up on the left.

This perhaps offers possibilities when we have the ball: if Carrington and Hunt can give width and get themselves up the pitch, they’ll either drag that diamond out of shape or find space which they can exploit. The problem is for that to work we’ll either have to enjoy a command of possession, which seems unlikely to me, or be able to hit accurate early service which sticks up front. Andy Bishop is probably our most effective target man, and I wouldn’t say that playing in that manner is necessarily his strong suit anyway; in his absence we really need to give good service to Joe Anyinsah to allow him to bring the wide men into the game. Anyinsah will trouble centre backs with his strength and quintessential wriggliness, but lump high stuff at him and he won’t have a sniff.

Grimsby aren’t in great form – one win in eight illustrates that – but they were very unfortunate not to win at Macclesfield last weekend, and frankly put in a better performance than some sides who’ve taken points off us lately. Despite the presence of Conor Jennings, who’ll be looking to add to his hat trick against us earlier this season, their manager Paul Hurst has been calling for his side to show some killer instinct as they haven’t been putting sides ot the sword of late. We’re equipped to capitalise on the reasons for this. That narrow midfield can be swamped, and as they seek to make the pitch more compact, we can aid the process to our benefit, clogging up the heart of the field and making it difficult for them to break the shackles of a moribund game.

Admittedly, hoping we can keep it tight and reward the fans who have trekked cross-country by making the game as dull as possible seems a pretty miserly ambition, but that’s where we are at the moment. This isn’t a side which can approach a game with confidence, and travelling to Blundell Park expecting us to repeat the euphoria of Wembley is a forlorn hope; stopping Grimsby from exacting revenge is a more realistic, albeit slightly unlikely, target.

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