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.
It seems strange to go to Grimsby without Andy Morrell tomorrow, as some his most memorable moments in management came against them.
Of course, his first trophy as manager came at Town’s expense when we won the FA Trophy last March, and he also enjoyed a terrific managerial debut at Blundell Park a year and a half earlier.
It was a match which offered him a crash course in the unpredictable life of the football manager. Unexpectedly hurled into the task following Dean Saunders’ surprise departure a couple of days earlier, Morrell immediately had to deal with the blow of losing Curtis Obeng to suspension.
He reshuffled his side, playing Chris Westwood at right back, and saw his side respond to his inaugural team talk. He enjoyed a stroke of luck with the opener, a header onto his own shoulder by Mathias Pogba which deceived the keeper as it looped gently over him, but his side showed resilience to respond to Liam Hearn’s equaliser with superb second half goals from Jay Harris and Lee Fowler to clinch a fine 3-1 win, our most recent at Blundell Park.
That result matched our best result at Grimsby, as it was the third time we’ve won 3-1 there. In first was in October 1954 through goals by Ron Hewitt, Dave Jackson and Dennis Griffiths, and we equalled that score in January 2004 thanks to Chris Llewellyn, Steve Thomas and Chris Armstrong.
In general, though, trips there tend to be tough. Our last match away to Grimsby, shortly before Christmas last year, illustrated that as it looked to be drifting to a second goalless draw of the season when Ross Hannah pounced to score a late winner.
Our worst visit to Blundell Park came in April 1990. We’d struggled against relegation to the Conference all season, so perhaps the side felt a sense of relief after achieving their goal in the previous match. Whatever the reason, we were in for a depressing afternoon. Grimsby were celebrating promotion, so there was a natural gulf between the sides anyway, but we did nothing to poop their party! To be fair we showed some early resilience: one-time Manchester United striker Garry Birtles gave Grimsby the lead but Andy Preece equalised ten minutes before the break.
That seemed to provoke The Mariners however, and they rattled in five goals, with Birtles completing a hat trick, and to make matters worse Joey Jones had to be stretchered off with a broken leg.
Leaving Grimsby in pain is the norm for Wrexham though. We’ve lost over half our matches there; in thirty-one matches we were beaten seventeen times, drawing seven and winning seven, keeping just seven clean sheets in the process. We’ve never won consecutive matches at Blundell Park, indeed we’ve never experienced two wins there within five years of each other. If Billy Barr is to enjoy an afternoon as successful those Morrell experienced at Grimsby’s expense, it really will be a memorable one!
Rob Ogleby makes his seventy fifth career league appearance tomorrow.