League Two Table
Question of the Week
What should happen to the EFL Trophy next season?
|Enter the Mariners!|
By: Richard Lord
GRIMSBY Town kick off the new campaign at Blundell Park on Saturday when they entertain Oxford United - a side that finished one point ahead of the Mariners in last season's League Two table.
Both teams will be hoping for an improved season, with a top seven finish being a realistic possibility. for the pair. The U's have assembled a decent-looking squad under the guidance of new manager Brian Talbot, following last season's tumultuous time with Ramon Diaz at the helm.
Brian Talbot has become the twelfth different manager to be in charge of Oxford since the turn of the century, underlining the difficult times the club has experienced since falling from the first division back in 1999. Talbot made a name for himself initially at West Brom but then took non-league Rushden and Diamonds from obscurity to the second division between 1997 and 2004. He spent just under a year as Oldham boss last season before his appointment as Oxford manager was made in May 2005. He brings with him a wealth of experience and possibly some stability to a club that has been in much need of some in recent years.
Talbot has already raided his old club Rushden for the services of midfielder Stuart Gray and goalkeeper Billy Turley. Northampton defender Chris Willmott, Luton's Lee Mansell and Brentford's Chris Hargreaves have also joined the U's on free transfers. Prolific scorer (especially against the Mariners) Tommy Mooney departed for Wycombe in the summer. Former Preston striker Steve Basham (left) could be the danger man on Saturday after scoring nine goals last season. Basham is approaching his 100th league appearance as an Oxford player and has already chipped in with 31 goals.
With only the past few pre-season friendly matches to go by, it's been a difficult task to predict both teams' starting line-ups. Town already have their first injury crisis of the season with zero games on the board!
Town's new midfielder Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala will miss the first few matches of the season after he picked up an injury against Blackburn. Ciaran Toner is also ruled out with a knee problem, although there is an outside chance he could recover in time.
Left back Tom Newey missed Tuesday's game with Blackburn and is also rated doubtful for the season's bug opener. Justin Whittle has been nursing a deep cut just above his eye after a clash of heads against Rotherham and veteran John McDermott has missed the last few warm-up games as a precaution, but could be ready to face Oxford on Saturday.
Likely starting line-ups
1. Steve Mildenhall|
12. Rob Jones
4. Simon Ramsden
5. Tony Crane
3. Tom Newey
2 John McDermott
8. Tom Bolland
14. Terry Barwick
11. Andy Parkinson
9. Michael Reddy
10. Martin Gritton
13. John Lukic
19. Billy Turley|
2. Lee Mansell
3. Matthew Robinson
5. Chris Willmott
6. John Ashton
21. Mark E'Beyer
11. Stuart Gray
4. Barry Quinn
10. Chris Hargreaves
8. Lee Bradbury
9. Steve Basham
1. Christopher Tardiff
Grimsby and Oxford have met 24 times, but never in any cup competition. The Mariners have won nine, lost ten and drawn five against the U's, but won the last meeting on 5 March 2005 when Matt Harold and Andy Parkinson scored in the second half to win the game 2-1. On 16 January 1999 Paul Groves scored the only goal of the game on 32 minutes to beat Oxford 1-0, which propelled Town up to fourth position in the first division.
Oxford's summer signing Chris Hargreaves made over 60 appearances for Grimsby between 89-93, albeit most of them as a substitute. He scored six goals in that time and has since been to Scarborough, Hull, West Brom, Hereford, Plymouth, Northampton and Brentford. He has been made captain of the U's.
Town have played much tougher opposition leading into this curtain-raiser, and with home advantage they should start their season with a victory. 2-1 to the Mariners.
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