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Match Previews

PREVIEW | Grimsby Town vs Wrexham

The Mariners have reorganised themselves and are on a promising unbeaten run as they prepare to welcome The Red Dragons.

22 March 2024

Match Previews

PREVIEW | Grimsby Town vs Wrexham

The Mariners have reorganised themselves and are on a promising unbeaten run as they prepare to welcome The Red Dragons.

22 March 2024

After the rare experience of back-to-back home games in which Wrexham didn’t score we have to turn that disappointment into motivation for a trip to a side which we’ve had quite a history with in recent years.


During our time in the National League we’ve beaten Grimsby Town in the FA Trophy Final at Wembley, marked Andy Morrell’s first game as manager with a terrific win at Blundell Park, had our 150th birthday party ruined when The Mariners won our celebratory game and lost an insane promotion play-off 5-4 as Town pulled off a sensational post-season to return to the EFL! Don’t be surprised if the winning goal on Saturday is scored in the 40th minute of added time by the referee!


The loss to Tranmere stung, and even the silver lining of Tom O’Connor retuning to the side was tarnished when the stylish midfielder was clattered, although he got through 60 minutes of a midweek reserve game, so he’ll hopefully be in contention. However, James McClean sits out the last game of his 2-match suspension, and with George Evans and James Jones still absent, our midfield options remain limited by absences.

Ryan Barnett was also the subject of a heavy challenge last Saturday, so Luke Bolton is on standby to step in on the right.

A midweek reserve match gave some much-needed game time to players who have either been returning from injury or lacking minutes on the pitch lately. Jack Marriott’s remarkably swift hat trick  and Sam Dalby’s brace meant they were two of a number of players who made a case for a starting place in the 7-1 win over Salford.



The Mariners might be languishing in a disappointing 21st place, but there is little danger of them being dragged into the relegation scrap, and recent form has been pleasingly solid. Manager Dave Artell, who spent a spell at the Stok Cae Ras, has shown impressive flexibility to get a tune out of his squad.

Artell inherited a rugged, hard-working squad from Paul Hurst last November, and initially looked to impose a more possession-based approach, as he had with success at his previous club, Crewe Alexandra. There were some promising performances in the early weeks of his tenure, but as time passed it became apparent that the players were struggling to adapt to the change of style.

The first two games of 2024, both at Blundell Park, brought the issue into stark relief with 11 goals conceded in a remarkable 5-5 draw with Notts County and a rather less impressive 6-1 defeat to Walsall. Those losses were part of a sequence of results which saw Artell's side win just one game in eleven, which also included a 5-1 loss at home to Doncaster.

Artell responded decisively, reverting to a more direct, defensively solid style of play, and has reaped the rewards. They are on an unbeaten 6-game run, recording an impressive draw at AFC Wimbledon and, in their most recent home game, victory over MK Dons. Just three goals have been conceded in the process as the players' heart and willingness to put in a good shift have been rewarded.

Ollie Palmer made his Wrexham debut against Grimsby in January 2021, and scored the only goal of the game.

Artell told the Grimsby Telegraph that he'd seen his side show signs of improvement before the unbeaten run began: “We’ve spoken about being proud to wear the shirt and represent the town, and I think we’ve seen that in abundance from the players in the recent performances.

“Someone showed me a stat that said our expected points up in the few games leading up to Doncaster was at nine and we got two, so I appreciate that people believe the turnaround has been massive, but we weren’t far away in the games before this unbeaten run.

“It’s still results that are the most important, the progression looks quite stark but we were already on our way here. We’ve just got to make sure that we keep that going now and keep building. If we do that, then we’ll be fine.

"I could sit here and say that we did okay against Doncaster because we had more expected goals, and people will think I’m an idiot for saying it, but they are facts. However, what was also evident that day was when they scored the third, our heads went down, so the thing that has changed is that we’re responding better to setbacks in the game since then.

“I had faith in the group that we were going to perform well when the time came to do so. Is there still a long way to go? Definitely - I want us to be able to defend as well as we have done in recent games while being a lot better with the ball, but that will come over time."

Some of the goals we’ve scored recently have been fabulous team goals with different players combining which is something we’ve been working on a long time. That’s what the lads can produce, we’ve just got to do that more often whilst also being resolute in defence.

-Dave Artell, Grimsby manager

There was online speculation that the squad had forced Artell into the change of direction, but co-owner Jason Stockwood was swift to take to Twitter to quash the rumour and emphasise the unity that exists at the club:


Artell hasn't just altered the side's playing style: after the heavy loss to Doncaster, he switched to a 3-5-2 shape which has allowed his side to congest the middle of the pitch, making them very difficult to play against. Curtis Thompson sits with real discipline in front of the back three to offer a rock-solid foundation from which to build. Town are a different proposition to the side which lacked confidence at the turn of the year, and will be a tricky side to overcome on their own patch.


We’ve suffered some painful recent defeats to Grimsby, and returned from our last two trips east empty-handed. Our most recent win at Blundell Park was in April 2015. Joe Clarke scored the only goal in the 17th minute, as Wrexham finished the season strongly under the caretaker managership of Carl Darlington and Lee Jones.

Put in temporary charge after the dismissal of Kevin Wilkin following the FA Trophy final, Darlington and Jones suffered just one loss in 8 games, winning 4.

Our most recent game in Cleethorpes saw Jake Hyde give us the lead half way throuigh the first half, but 4 minutes later it was all square and it didn't take long for ex-Wrexham centre back Luke Waterfall to put The Mariners ahead. A goal in the final minute sealed a 3-1 loss.

In the 2013-14 season Grimsby took the lead, but an own goal by future Wrexham legend Shaun Pearson at the end of the first half levelled matters t looked like we’d hang onto a point until two goals in the last 3 minutes earned the home side a 3-1 win.


A memorable recent clash at Blundell Park came in 2011 when Andy Morrell celebrated his first match as Wrexham manager in style. Unexpectedly hurled into the task following Dean Saunders’ surprise departure a couple of days earlier, Morrell immediately had to deal with the blow of losing Curtis Obeng to suspension.

He reshuffled his side, playing Chris Westwood at right back, and saw his side respond to his inaugural team talk. He enjoyed a stroke of luck with the opener, a header onto his own shoulder by Mathias Pogba which deceived the keeper as it looped gently over him, but his side showed resilience to respond to Liam Hearn’s equaliser with superb second half goals from Jay Harris and Lee Fowler to clinch a fine 3-1 win.

That result matched our best result at Grimsby, as it was the third time we’ve won 3-1 there. The first was in October 1954 through goals by Ron Hewitt, Dave Jackson and Dennis Griffiths, and we equalled that score in January 2004 thanks to Chris Llewellyn, Steve Thomas and Chris Armstrong.

Our worst visit to Blundell Park came in April 1990. We’d struggled against relegation to the Conference all season, so perhaps the side felt a sense of relief after achieving their goal in the previous match. Whatever the reason, we were in for a depressing afternoon. Grimsby were celebrating promotion, so there was a natural gulf between the sides anyway, but we did nothing to poop their party! To be fair we showed some early resilience: one-time Manchester United striker Garry Birtles gave Grimsby the lead but Andy Preece equalised ten minutes before the break.

That seemed to provoke The Mariners however, and they rattled in five goals, with Birtles completing a hat trick, and to make matters worse Joey Jones was stretchered off with a broken leg.



Mansfield Town v Colchester United
Harrogate Town v Bradford City
Barrow v Newport County
Crewe Alexandra v AFC Wimbledon
Doncaster Rovers v Forest Green Rovers
Morecambe v Gillingham
Notts County v Salford City
Sutton United v Accrington Stanley
Tranmere Rovers v Crawley Town
Stockport County v Milton Keynes Dons
The two teams above us top and tail Saturday's fixtures with two televised games: Mansfield get the ball rolling with what looks like a straightforward home clash against Colchester United; Stockport, who've taken just 7 points from their last 7 games, facea rather more awkward challenge against fourth-placed Milton Keynes.
Crewe and Barrow, 5th and 6th respectively, have struggled for form lately and face awkward challenges: Barrow entertain Newport county, who won their last 2 games, while Alex are up against 7th placed AFC Wimbledon. Also, keep an eye on events at Prenton Park, where two in-form sides clash. Tranmere, fresh from their win at The Stok Cae Ras, are unbeaten in 4, including 3 victories, while Crawley's run of 5 wins in their last 7 games leaves them just outside the play-offs with 2 games in hand on most of their rivals.

Ollie Palmer's 500th career league match.

Jordan Davies’ 125th league game for Wrexham.

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