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"If I were Groves...."

By: Richard Lord
Date: 07/03/2003

GRIMSBY Town's main problem stems from within the defence. That is common knowledge. After all, when you have the leakiest defence in the league, what else are you going to presume?

But if you speak to any goalkeeper or any defender they will tell you that you defend as a team, and that starts with the strikers.

Paul Groves has faced a difficult season and just recently it has taken another turn for the worse. So how do the Mariners get out of this latest hole?

One of the main reasons why Town have been conceding so many is the lack of consistency. The back four have swapped around so much that players have failed to build up an understanding with each other.

Yet recently the back four has become more settled with Coyne in goal, McDermott at right back, Gallimore at left back, and Santos and Ford at centre-back.

Despite this, things have just got worse. So maybe that back four is not suitable. Perhaps Santos would be more useful in the centre of midfield. And maybe Ford needs a rest.

With virtually a fully fit squad Groves has the options available to him. In a few days the Mariners travel to free-scoring Notts Forest and something needs to be done.

I am going to use the regular phrase of: "If I were Groves" and say that not just the back four needs changing. I would take a long, hard look at the midfield as well.

For me I think we have been missing a genuine left-sided midfielder. Campbell has evolved in that position but Barnard must be dragged back into the fold.

With Oster on the right and Barnard on the left the team has some natural balance. Groves and Pouton would be my pairing in the centre of midfield, after the two performed so well against Stoke.

At the back I would keep Coyne in goal with McDermott and Gallimore in their regular positions. With Barnard in front of Gally, I would feel a whole lot more secure defending down that side.

The experienced Chettle and the powerful Santos would then be my chosen defensive pairing. None have great pace but Chettle does have good anticipation and Georges is just a rock.

The pairing up front has to be Boulding and Mansaram. If Groves chooses to go with the 4-5-1 formation then the lone striker has to be Mansaram, with Boulding playing just behind.

Boulding has pace so he needs to be feeding off the scraps that Mansaram can provide, and I remember him and Oster teaming up so effectively at Pride Park back on Boxing Day.

That's my personal viewpoint and I'm sure every other fan has theirs. One thing is for sure; Groves needs to give Ford a rest and provide more cover down the left.

Allaway, Ford, Hughes, Ward and Livingstone should be on the bench. I also feel strongly that, contrary to some opinions, Groves needs to play himself in midfield.

He was showing some great form up until he dropped himself after the Ipswich draw. He and Pouton is the combination Town need in midfield. Both players have a lot to offer and work well together.

But I suppose we'll just have to wait and see. I'm not Paul Groves.

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