GRIMSBY are on an excellent run and EFL lover Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) is fishing for value by keeping the Mariners on side.
One To Watch: Grimsby in a good plaice
Grimsby Town are now among the form teams in League Two – and there are not too many more impressive possession-based outfits.
Before we look at their improvement – and assess how far they can go this season – it’s important see what went wrong in the first two months of their campaign and why they were unable, then, to produce the standard of performances that they are now.
In the first two months of the campaign, Grimsby’s campaign was disrupted by two major problems.
Firstly, in August, the issue was poor game management.
They produced very strong first half performances against Lincoln and MK Dons – now the division’s two stand-out sides – only to take two points from those encounters rather than six due to below-par second half displays.
Secondly, in September, the Mariners’ season was hampered by injuries.
Ben Pringle struggled for fitness after joining while full-backs Reece Hall-Johnson and Andrew Fox were out for long spells, as the team endured a six-game losing streak that called Jolley’s Blundell Park future into question.
In the absence of natural full-backs, Jolley initially had to experiment in those positions.
Centre-backs by trade like Harry Davis and Akin Famewo were deployed there while at times the likes of Jake Hessenthaler and Martyn Woolford also filled in out of position.
The problem with that is, in a possession system, having full-backs who can hold the width and make forward runs down the flank are vital to creating space for central technicians.
Over October, Jolley was able to bring back a speedy right-back in Reece Hall-Johnson, then Andrew Fox’s November return not only handed the head coach a natural left-back, it also gave him the option to shift the right-footed Luke Hendrie over to his natural side.
When Grimsby Town have not had full-backs by trade on both sides, their performances have suffered massively with just five points from 10 league games.
When they have had that though, their return is 20 points from 12; that’s a 234% improvement.
Elliot Embleton looks one of the brightest young talents outside the Championship.
We saw what he can do in the summer with England Under-20s and he has built on that in Cleethorpes with a series of sparkling displays.
Embleton consistently makes well-timed runs: he loves to drift into the left channel and because he teases defenders by attacking on the outside or cutting inwards, he can cause uncertainty in opposition back-lines.
When the 19-year-old does cut inside, he can create for his teammates or curl shots with genuine quality, having scored three goals in his last five league appearances.
Sunderland manager Jack Ross has kept a close eye on his performances, so retaining the Black Cats loanee’s services beyond January is a major priority for the Mariners.
Fluent front trio
Grimsby’s attacking trio compliment one another perfectly.
There is the technical proficiency of Ben Pringle, who was a star performer in League One for Rotherham back in 2013-14 and, at 24, still has plenty of time to fulfil his potential; Pringle’s movement and quality of deliveries can be excellent.
Additionally, Charles Vernam looks a lively forward who loves to combine with his teammates in central areas; even if he could do with adding to his tally of two league goals.
The glue to this Grimsby attack though is Wes Thomas.
The former Birmingham striker not only has goals in him, having bagged a brace in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Swindon, he is also selfless.
Thomas willingly runs the channels and is happy to battle with opposing centre-backs; he often makes the kind of movements that create space for other players to find goalscoring positions.
The likes of Jordan Cook and Ahkeem Rose, meanwhile, can contribute from the bench.
The Betting Angle
If the League Two season started on 1st October, Grimsby would be sixth in the table with 20 points from 12 games – only MK Dons, Colchester and Mansfield have accrued more points in the same timeframe.
It could be argued that this return offers a better representation of their true capabilities than the run of September defeats, which came when they were without key parts of the system.
A continuation of their form with those key parts would see them take 40 points from their final 24 games, leaving them on 65 points – enough for a top half finish in 16 of the last 17 fourth-tier seasons.
For that reason, we see excellent value in William Hill’s 6/1 offering on Grimsby to bridge the current five-point gap to the top half.
League Two – Grimsby to finish in the top half (6/1 William Hill)