Match Preview: Grimsby Town

Last updated : 27 September 2005 By Rob Davies
Gudjon Thordarson takes his team on the relatively short mid-week trip to Blundell Park with his side looking to end their mini-blip of four matches without a victory.

However, though Grimsby - like ourselves - were largely written-off at the start of the campaign, the Mariners have leapt out of the starting blocks and are currently the surprise package sitting at the top of the league.

Notts, of course, have too enjoyed an excellent start to season 05/06 under Thordarson, with the Magpies currently sitting three points behind Grimsby in the table, lying in fifth position.

What this means, ofcourse, is that tonight's match can be billed as something of a top-of-the-table clash, a phrase that the fans' of both clubs wouldn't have expected to be used in conjunction with their team this season.

Whether, when the two teams meet again this season in February, the phrase 'top-of-the-table clash' will be used is unlikely. But hey, we'll enjoy it while it lasts.

The Magpies fans are already suffering something of a reality check since Thordarson deservedly received the manager of the month award for August. Since being handed that blasted trophy, the former Iceland boss (above left) hasn't seen his team win a game.

Respectable draws against Darlington and Chester have been followed by a morale-sapping defeat at Shrewsbury and Saturday's 0-0 draw versus Rushden, which served more to cure insomniacs than to entertain the Meadow Lane crowd.

While it may seem probable to the naked eye that the winless sequence is likely to be extended to five matches tonight, a delve into the statistics show that Thordarson and his merry men may leave Cleethorpes with something a little more than the world-famous Fish & Chips, that are surely worth making the trip on their own.

Though the Mariners excellent 1-0 win over a near-full strength Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup last week earned them national acclaim, it is their form away from Blundell Park that has seen them leap to the top of the League Two table.

Former Notts manager Russell Slade's team have enjoyed comfortable 2-0 and 3-0 home successes over Rushden & Diamonds and Torquay Utd respectively, but both Darlington (1-0) and Stockport County (3-1) have returned from Cleethorpes with all three points.

Bolland: Same colours, different team
This is in stark contrast to Grimsby's away form, where Saturday's 1-1 draw at Boston Utd were the first points dropped all season on their travels.

Slade - largely ridiculed by Magpies fans' before, during and after his stint at Meadow Lane - has defied the critics and has managed to get his team - who finished one place above Notts in 18th position last season - playing some excellent football.

This is all the more shocking considering the number of ex Magpies that feature heavilly in Slade's new-look squad. Goalkeeper Steven Mildenhall, midfielder Paul Bolland and former loanees Andy Parkinson and Simon Ramsden have all been regulars in Grimsby's surprise emergence at the top of the table. All were distinctly hit-and-miss during their respective periods at Meadow Lane.

The presence of Bolland will probably attract most interest amongst the travelling faithful, after the 25-year-olf left Meadow Lane in the summer following six years' service. Always a marmite figure with the Notts crowd, many were surprised to see him offered a two-year deal by Slade in the summer, but the energetic midfielder has been a key-man in his new team's rise up the table, playing in all but four minutes of his team's league games this season.

He will be even-more keen than perhaps the others to put one over on his old team, as he is still riled at the way he left Meadow Lane. The midfielder was told to wait until Thordarson returned from holiday before new contract talks could begin, though with no concrete offer on the table by the end of June, he eventually opted to move to pastures new.

The reception granted to Mildenhall (left) will also be interesing. The goalkeeper spent over three years at Meadow Lane after arriving for the now-astronomical fee of £150,000, before eventually having to be let-go for financial reasons. He was largely ridiculed in his latter days at the club, though his shot-stopping capabilities were never questioned - his ability to deal with aerial crosses often was, not least by former boss Gary Mills - the man who allowed Mildenhall to leave Meadow Lane.

Elsewhere, Grimsby's chief threat is Carling Cup hero Jean-Paul Kalala. The Frenchman signed on a free transfer in the summer and already has four goals to his name, coming largely from the right-hand side of midfield. Highly-rated Nottingham-born full-back Simon Francis is also expected to make his debut having signed on-loan from Sheffield Utd yesterday.

Thordarson, meanwhile, is likely to bring his own loanees into the starting line-up after both impressed as substitutes in mid-week. David McGoldrick will hope to cause the home rearguard problems with his pace from the start, whilst Tyrone Berry will compete with top scorer Glynn Hurst to partner his fellow loanee.

Notts have slight injury worries over Rob Ullathorne and Matt Gill, though both will travel to Blundell Park with the rest of the 18-man squad. Ullathorne is the chief doubt, though, with young Dan Martin on stand-by if needed.

Andy White is hoping for at least a role on the bench after being surprisingly over-looked at the weekend, whilst Mike Edwards will captain the team for the second time against his former club, with Julien Baudet still suspended. Steve Scoffham serves the final match of his three-match ban, while Ruben Zadkovich has again be over-looked by Thordarson.

Notts (possible): Pilkington; O'Callaghan, Edwards, Wilson, Ullathorne; Pipe, Gill, McMahon, Sheriden; McGoldrick, Hurst.

Subs (from): Marshall, Martin, Long, Palmer, Berry, Gordon, White.

Be sure to check back to NCM after the final whistle for a full match report on proceedings.