Grimsby v Exeter: successful festive runs

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Brown return boosts Grecians

It has been a positive two months for Grimsby and Exeter. The seemingly rejuvenated Grecians have climbed from 24th to 11th in a remarkably short space of time. They had a crisis of both injuries and confidence earlier in the season, but now those problems have gone. The Devon side have been helped by Troy Brown’s return to centre-back, alongside the increasingly impressive Jordan Moore-Taylor, has given the Grecians a strong base from which to build.

In the event of injuries re-occurring, it could be important for Paul Tisdale to keep hold of the versatile Jack Stacey. The Reading loanee’s contract expires in little over a week and offers solidity, pace, good distribution plus a capacity to cover anywhere across the midfield as well as his current right-back role.

Grimsby’s right-back Ben Davies is 15 years older than Stacey, but offers similar versatility. The 35-year-old returned from injury over Christmas to start three of his side’s last four games, each of them resulting in a Mariners win. If Marcus Bignot persists with the wing-back system he has used to some success lately, Davies may be used centrally at times. Even a player with his work rate and professionalism will struggle, at his age, to operate as a wing-back at full pace for 90 minutes.

Bignot, similarly to Hurst, is not the type of manager who will automatically stick with the same system if it won the week before. He might make an attack-minded tweak to the side that helped a clean sheet and win at Hartlepool to add more pace and flair behind Omar Bogle. Dominic Vose has shown signs this season, notably in the 5-2 win over Stevenage, that with a run of games in the hole he could be a weapon for the Mariners.

Exeter pose a threat going forward themselves. They move the ball smoothly into the final third and the attacking trio of David Wheeler, Liam McAlinden and Ollie Watkins works well. McAlinden stretches play with his energy and movement, which creates space for Wheeler and Watkins to make late runs into goalscoring positions. Attempting to thwart their efforts will be Dean Henderson, who has impressed since joining Grimsby on loan from Manchester United.

15 points is a good return from Marcus Bignot’s first eight games in charge, especially when one considers that they have played five of the top seven in that time. Exeter are top of the away form table but this blog fancies Grimsby to deal them a first defeat in eight. There is a buzz around the Lincolnshire club and town that hasn’t been there for a while and the Mariners may continue their impressive run.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 2-1

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