Unless an extra space is randomly added on to the League Two play-off and relegation places, the Towns of Grimsby and Crawley are set for low key finales to their respective campaigns.
To make the play-offs, Grimsby need from their final nine games around 21 points. That tally is almost double their total from the previous nine, so a top half finish would be satisfactory. Equally, if Crawley lose all their remaining games, they are likely to still be roughly three points clear of the drop zone.
A positive run could re-build confidence in either camp but more importantly for these clubs is the summer. Both have appointed left-field bosses in Marcus Bignot and Dermot Drummy respectively, who are in their first managerial jobs at this level and are perhaps learning as they work.
Drummy has faced criticism for favouring youngsters and encouraging centre-backs to play out from the back. Given that they have the league’s fourth worst defensive record – their only clean sheet in 11 inspired by goalkeeper Glenn Morris – his doubters have valid grounds. Equally though, he has got the best out of 16-goal man James Collins and creative winger Enzio Boldewijn. Crawley fans have seen better football than under previous regimes and enjoy a closer bond with the club.
Just as importantly as Crawley’s decision of whether to stick with the former Chelsea youth coach, is the conviction with which they make it. The current back-line is not yet good enough to launch a play-off push with Drummy’s tactics, but nor is it suited to a direct style. For that reason, there must be both investment in and commitment to one style of play this summer.
If Drummy stays, it will be important to spend a large part of their budget on centre-backs with pace who excel at defending in wide areas and big, open spaces. The two second half goals Crewe scored against the Red Devils last time out provided a fine example of their struggles in dealing with opposition breakaways.
Grimsby’s problem at Portsmouth in midweek was not so much susceptibility to counter-attacks, as a failure to close down in their own half. However, eight clean sheets since Christmas suggest centre-backs Shaun Pearson and Danny Collins have good performances in them, even if the latter didn’t cover himself in glory against Wycombe.
While Crawley are guilty of passing sideways too often, Grimsby’s players look at times as if they have been told never to pass sideways. This can lead to aimless balls over the top and without the individualistic qualities of Omar Bogle up front, it becomes hard to construct attacks.
Grimsby’s players must learn to look for the simple pass and while those of Crawley should look forwards more often. With a more varied approach play, perhaps next year, some late-season drama at the right end of the table may come their way.
The Football Lab’s Verdict: 1-0
Betting tip: both teams not to score at 5/6