League Two Form Guide
Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
|Will He Play?|
By: Richard Lord
FRIDAY night's match between Grimsby and Cheltenham hands Russell Slade's side the chance to push back into the automatic promotion places and will pile the pressure on Leyton Orient - who travel to Lincoln the following day.
However, while it remains mathematically possible, the Robins still believe that a top three finish is attainable, and will be viewing this fixture as an opportunity to make up ground on the Mariners. John Ward's side have lost just once in their last seven games and - with a decent away record this season - will be buoyed by Town's recent form of just one win in their last five. But it will take a huge effort on their part to bridge the eight-point gap that currently sits between them and automatic promotion, with nine points to play for.
Cheltenham have remained in the top ten for almost the entire campaign, and it was their positive start to the season that got them underway. It wasn't until mid-September when they finally lost a game, and since then they have been picking up points with regularity - although their home form has been one of the reasons why they have never seriously threatened the top three.
The Whaddon Road outfit have also had to battle back into the top seven on a couple of occasions. However, they have a very competent defence - especially on the road, where they have conceded just 21 goals. Only Carlisle and Northampton have shipped fewer. Only five defeats away from home suggests that the Mariners will have to be at their best if they want to jump above Orient and into the top three.
But while Grimsby have been struggling on the road, where they have collected just eight points from a possible 30, they have been displaying the kind of form fans have been expecting at Blundell Park over the last couple of months. The resurgence was brought to a halt last week when Shrewsbury denied the Mariners a sixth consecutive home win. 16 points from 18 has been the main reason why they're very much in the promotion race.
In goal is the dependable Shane Higgs, and since joining the Robins in 1999 he has made over 150 appearances. Cheltenham's defence includes the experience of full-back Jerry Gill and former Town loan man Craig Armstrong. Impressive youngster Michael Townsend was sent off in their 1-1 draw against Darlington and will miss the trip to Grimsby. Midfielders Brian Wilson, JJ Melligan and John Finnigan have been consistent performers for John Ward's side, and one time Town trialist Grant McCann is the one to watch for the Robins. He registered from the spot in the draw against the Quakers. Up front is Damian Spencer - short on goals this season, with just four - and the physical Kayode Odejayi, who caused Newcastle's defence all sorts of problems when the two sides met in the FA Cup earlier this year.
The Mariners have injury worries of their own ahead of the game - John McDermott has been struggling with a hamstring injury since its occurrence in the 0-0 draw at Leyton Orient - which was a match that Michael Reddy had to sit out. Slade will be hoping his top scorer will be available on Friday night. If he is drafted back into the starting eleven, and if Gary Cohen remains fit enough to take his place, the midfield more or less picks itself. However, if club captain McDermott has to miss out, Cohen could fill in at right back and one of Andy Parkinson, JPK Kalala or Ciaran Toner could start in midfield.
There is no doubt that Cheltenham will be a threat, and their league double over Northampton shows that they can trouble the best teams in League 2. Carlisle also failed to beat the Robins in their two meetings, so their organisation and discipline will be a tough nut to crack for Reddy & Co.
Prediction: 1-0 to the Mariners!
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