Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
By: Stephen Bateman
The Mariners face another stiff test of character on Saturday as Trevor Francis brings his Birmingham City side to Blundell Park. Grimsby manager Lennie Lawrence will be hoping for an improved performance from his side after watching them crash to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Watford last week.
After a defensively inept performance against Watford, the Mariners will be looking to re-establish their recent revival under Lawrence. Alarmingly enough, Grimsby seemed to attempt to compensate for their defensive shortcomings last Saturday by being equally ineffective in front of the opposition goal.
Injury problems have already hampered the Mariners match preparations after Paul Raven was ruled out of action for at least a month due to twisting his knee against the Hornets. Skipper Paul Groves looks set to continue at centre-half in Raven's absence, although the main injury scare surrounds leading scorer Bradley Allen who is rated as doubtful after damaging ankle ligaments.
On a brighter note, former Republic of Ireland Under-21 striker Daryl Clare returns to the squad after belatedly discovering the wonder of sticking-plasters. Clare has recently been sidelined due to a blistered foot after wearing-in a pair of new football boots. It would be wholly unfair to suggest that such outstanding foresight and awareness on the young Irishman's part in preparing his new footwear has been reflected in his performances for the Mariners so far this season.
Should Allen fail to recover in time for Saturday it seems likely that Clare will return to the starting eleven. Wayne Burnett is once again included in the squad after successfully negotiating Wednesday night's reserve team fixture against Walsall. Kevin Donovan is expected to return to a three-man midfield alongside Stuart Campbell and Stacy Coldicott.
Grimsby Town (from): Coyne, McDermott, Gallimore, Handyside, Groves, Murray, Livingstone, Campbell, Coldicott, Allen, Nielsen, Clare, Jeffrey, Burnett, Croudson
Birmingham City are a difficult side to assess. If they turn up in the guise of Dr. Jekyll and play like the side that devoured Tottenham 3-1 in the Worthington Cup then they will provide a very stern test for the Mariners. However, a collective Mr. Hyde trotted onto the pitch at Carrow Road on Tuesday night as City slumped to an unexpected 1-0 defeat against the Canaries.
The main injury concern for boss Trevor Francis is the fitness of
influential former Peterborough United midfielder Martin O'Connor, who
missed the Norwich defeat after sustaining an injury in last week's 1-1 draw
with Bolton. Should O'Connor fail to recover in time it is expected that
Martin Grainger will continue to deputise in the centre of midfield.
Mark Burchill, an on-loan signing from Celtic, has made an early impact on the Birmingham attack, although a sub-standard performance against Norwich led to an early departure for the young Scot.
It is expected that Francis will perm any two from Burchill, Geoff Horsfield and Dele Adebola to lead his attack against the Mariners.
Birmingham City (from): Bennett, Gill, Hyde, Grainger, Purse, Johnson, Holdsworth, Eaden, Hughes, Adebola, Burchill, Lazaridis, Johnson, Poole, Burrows, Horsfield
The unpredictable nature of Birmingham City makes this a very difficult game to call. Historically there is practically nothing to distinguish between the teams, with the Mariners edging the series of encounters 27-26. The Blues have had an unsettled time away from St. Andrews this season, winning two and losing three of their eight away fixtures to date.
Mariners fans will be looking for an improved performance from their back four during this game, particularly left-back Tony Gallimore who allowed Watford's Nordin Wooter to overwhelm him on the left flank last Saturday.
In the post-Buckley era at Blundell Park there is always a likelihood that Grimsby will score goals; the worrying aspect these days is whether or not the defence are capable of snuffing out the threat from opposing attackers.
Real Audio commentary of the game for those not able to go can be heard here
Blues fans looking for details on how to get to BP need look no further than our definitive guide.
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