‘There are a lot of fans who are actually feeling quietly confident heading into this game’ – Inside Track
Grimsby away is the 11th game of Brian Dutton’s tenure, and if he loses, it may well be his last. Grimsby have seen a bit of a revival, going five games unbeaten. I spoke with James Findlater from Grimsby Live to find out about Walsall’s opponents. Grimsby have had a poor season, and see themselves at the bottom of League Two. Do you deserve to be there? Certainly – a poor season would be putting it lightly to be honest. It’s only until recently under Paul Hurst that they’ve looked like a proper Football League side – before his arrival and the subsequent reshaping of the squad, Town looked a really poor team, with a shaky defence shipping cheap goals, and a toothless attack. What exactly has gone wrong for the club? They’ve been made to pay for their dreadful preparations during the summer. Under Ian Holloway, players were brought in from non-league who weren’t ready for the step up to the EFL, while others simply weren’t fit, and playing just one pre-season game meant they went into the campaign severely undercooked. It was all disjointed, and at times the players just didn’t look like they knew what they were supposed to be doing. When Holloway resigned just before Christmas, he left an almighty mess for Hurst to try and fix, which certainly hasn’t been an easy job. The club has been coasting over the past few years, and hopefully the impending takeover will help to shake things up, both on and off the pitch. There has been a lot said in the media about the ownership issues at Grimsby. What is the current situation? After much wrangling over the New Year period, the finish line looks like it’s finally in sight for the takeover. The furore over majority shareholder John Fenty’s courting of convicted fraudster Alex May – who wanted to buy £1m worth of shares – meant there was really no way back for him, and so Tom Shutes’ consortium came back into the picture after previously being pushed back in their attempts to buy the club. It looked at one stage that it might not happen, with a deadline being set by John Fenty on Christmas Eve, but the consortium came back on Boxing Day with another offer, which was eventually accepted. It’s now (hopefully) just a matter of when, not if – our understanding at the moment is the club are just waiting for the go-ahead from the EFL, and once that arrives, Town will have their new owners in place. Can you stay up? It still looks a huge ask given the seven point gap – virtually eight given the goal difference – but the win over Barrow on Tuesday has given Town a lifeline. Performances have improved in recent games, and while they weren’t getting the wins, you could see more fight in them, and they look more like a team who want to stay in the league. While there’s still a chance, this side look as though they won’t give up anytime soon – and they’ll fancy their chances of picking up a few surprise results to help their cause. Who has been the stand-out performer for the side? That’s a difficult one considering the way this season’s gone! In recent games, defender Rollin Menayese has perhaps been the pick of the bunch. He’s improved with each game he’s played, and alongside Elliott Hewitt – who’s also been superb recently – they’ve really shored things up at the back. Lenell John-Lewis has also improved things going forward since arriving – he’s the sort of player who will also battle hard for you, even if it looks like a lost cause. And midfielder Jay Matete, who’s on loan from Fleetwood, is a real livewire in midfield and simply never stops working. What has changed to see the side go on a 5 game unbeaten run? Paul Hurst has made Town really difficult to beat, which they simply weren’t beforehand. It wasn’t too long ago that you could rely on a lapse in concentration in the defence to gift you a goal, and more often than not, that would be enough for sides to beat them. Now, with Hewitt and Menayese at the heart of the defence, they look a much more cohesive unit, three clean sheets in the last four games bears that out. The goals are still hard to come by, but they at least have something to cling onto now, whereas before you could see they were out of games the moment they fell behind. What are your predictions for the game? Given Walsall’s recent run, I think there are a lot of fans who are actually feeling quietly confident heading into this game. There won’t be many goals in it, but I’d back Town to follow up the win at Barrow with another result – I’ll say 1-0 to the hosts.