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.
Matches against Grimsby seem to have taken on an increased significance since we both dropped down into non league football.
Of course we defeated them at Wembley to lift the FA Trophy, but they gained a measure of revenge when they spoiled our 150th birthday party earlier in the season as a controversial penalty decision against Mark Carrington allowed Lenell John-Lewis to score the only goal from the spot.
Perhaps tomorrow will add another memorable chapter to the fixture’s history, although our record away to The Mariners is not good.
Our last victory at Blundell Park was Andy Morrell’s first game in charge, in September 2011. Dean Saunders had left suddenly in midweek and Morrell, handed the caretaker manager’s position, enjoyed a perfect start when goals from Lee Fowler, Mathias Pogba and Jay Harris earned a 3-1 win.
However, we’ve gone to Grimsby twice since then and lost both times, 3-1 last season when the goal we mustered was an own goal and a 1-0 loss the season before that.
We’ve lost over half our matches there; in thirty-two matches there we’ve been beaten eighteen times, drawing seven and winning seven and keeping a mere seven clean sheets.
Indeed, you have to go back nine games, to a 0-0 draw in August 1997, to find the last time we kept a clean sheet away to The Mariners.
History suggests we’ll have to wait for success tomorrow, as we’ve never experienced two wins there within five years of each other.
Our recent form is poor against Grimsby at any venue. We haven’t beaten them in seven games, although one of the three draws we’ve managed at that time was capped by that penalty shoot-out victory at Wembley.
Our best result at Blundell Park is 3-1, a scoreline we’ve managed three times. The first occasion came in October 1954 when Ron Hewitt, Dave Jackson and Dennis Griffiths got our goals, and that score was matched in January 2004 through strikes from Chris Llewellyn, Steve Thomas and Chris Armstrong. The third 3-1, of course, was Morrell’s managerial debut.
Our worst result at Blundell Park came in April 1990. We’d managed to finally secure our safety in the previous match having battled against relegation to the Conference all season, so perhaps we let our guard down which was hardly a good idea against a Grimsby side which had just achieved promotion.
Ex-Manchester United and England striker Garry Birtles gave Grimsby the lead but Andy Preece equalised ten minutes before the break. However, we couldn’t withstand the home side in the second half as they scored five goals, with Birtles completing a hat trick, and to cap a grim afternoon Joey Jones had to be stretchered off with a broken leg.
Steve Tomassen makes his fiftieth league appearance for Wrexham tomorrow. He can be pleased with his efforts since he earned a place in the side after Christmas, as he’s the only defender to have made more than five appearances this season who can say the side concedes at an average of less than a goal every game.