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Season Review: Part One

By: Sam Kinnaird
Date: 11/05/2009

The season tickets were out, the fixtures had been released and the sun was shining in Cleethorpes as Mariners' fans looked forward to the season buoyed by the recent trip to Wembley.

Home > 2008-2009 Season > Season Review > Part 1

The season tickets were out, the fixtures had been released and the sun was shining in Cleethorpes as Mariners' fans looked forward to the season buoyed by the recent trip to Wembley.

Manager Alan Buckley announced regular signings through the months of June and July, all the time saying that he believed Town could reach the League Two play-offs in the coming season. The eight straight losses at the back end of the previous season had done little to water down Buckley’s optimism. Brentford captain and recent player of the year Matt Heywood, a 28-year-old centre back arrived at Blundell Park along with fellow defenders Richard Hope and Robbie Stockdale. All seemed good signings especially that of right-back Stockdale; fans hoped he could be the long-term replacement for John McDermott that many had tried and failed to be the previous season. Winger Chris Llewelyn was also snapped up from relegated Wrexham, a man with six Wales caps to his name, a seemingly decent pedigree. Midfielder Ciaran Toner had been the highest profile departure from the club and it was hoped Llewelyn could be better than his Irish counterpart. Barnsley midfielder Simon Heslop was signed on a three-month loan deal, Buckley had talked up the youngster in previous weeks and finally got his man just in the nick of time to replace the crocked Paul Bolland.

The pre-season games began in disastrous fashion, a 3-1 drubbing at Conference North outfit Corby Town paved the way for a defeat against Oldham and a poor draw at local side Winterton Rangers. A morale boosting 2-0 win at Gainsborough simply covered up the cracks of a depleted squad that had been insufficiently built and Buckley needed to do something quick. The lightweight strike force of North, Taylor, Jarman and the uninterested Butler left the Mariners short of options upfront. Failed bids for Michael Boulding and Delroy Facey added to Town’s pre-season woes. A pathetic Town side were then thrashed 3-0 at Farsley Celtic before a morale boosting 1-0 Lincs Senior Cup win over Lincoln City. A 5-1 defeat at Eastwood Town and a 4-0 defeat at Scunthorpe left town fans shaking their heads in disbelief, even the few optimistic supporters remaining were waning in their support for the manager.

A poor 1-1 draw at Brigg meant pre-season had been an embarrassment, Town were short of options all over the field and it looked like a long and unbearable season of struggling would be in store for the long suffering Town faithful. A tough home draw against Tranmere in the League Cup did little to increase optimism. Play-off final losers Rochdale were first up at Blundell Park and it was vital the Mariners got off to a winning start against the Dale.

It was announced the ITV’s glory hunter would start his glory hunting career with the Mariners against Rochdale on the opening day. But would he stick around past the season opener? Only time would tell...

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