Walsall 3-1 Grimsby Town Player Ratings: Öhman it’s Ludvig

Hanson nets the pen (with thanks to GTFC photographer Lee Blease) -https://www.grimsby-townfc.co.uk/

Grimsby Town are up to fourth in League One thanks to a 3-1 victory at Walsall, with James Hanson bagging a hat-trick after Elliot Whitehouse’s first half goal cancelled out Caolan Lavery’s opener. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

Walsall

Liam Roberts – the goalkeeper’s distribution was mixed and his positioning for Grimsby’s equalizer was rather questionable; with Scarr and Sadler not commanding in the air, Walsall could have done with their goalkeeper being slightly braver and try to claim more of Grimsby’s crosses, although one of the goals he conceded was a penalty. 4

James Clarke – the right-back suffered at times from a lack of protection in front of him, but he hit one or two nice diagonal passes in the first half and made some intelligent overlapping runs to create space for Holden down the right. One of the better players. 6
Dan Scarr – the defender was tasked with being the main dominant presence in this Walsall rear-guard, but did not do his job too well as the likes of Hanson and Waterfall won a lot of headers in his penalty box. 4
Mat Sadler – the defender did not attack balls into the box aggressively and that at times handed the initiative to the opposition. Sometimes Sadler’s restrained way of defending can be an advantage, but he can struggle when his partner is not particularly dominant. 4
Cameron Pring – the left-back made some positive forward runs and linked up nicely at times with Hardy. Suffered at times though from a lack of protection in front of him and didn’t get forward as much after the break. 5

Stuart Sinclair – the experienced midfielder was very keen to drop deep, at times between the centre-backs; this helped deny space in central areas – and it should be noted that Grimsby did not create much through the middle in the fiirst half – but Sinclair can lack the willingness to support the press or contribute in a proactive sense. 4
Gary Liddle – like Sinclair, Liddle was also positioned very deep and with the former Carlisle man so defence-orientated, he lacked the vision to pick progressive passes, or even the tenacity to close down. Clarke might have favoured such a conservative double-pivot because he was short of natural wide players who will track back, but nonetheless it left Walsall predictable – especially when they had to break Grimsby down. 4

Rory Holden – Darrell Clarke was pleased with the performance of the Bristol City loanee, who looked bright and inventive down the right flank especially early on – and put the fifth-minute cross that led to Lavery’s opener. Holden was arguably the home side’s brightest spark in the second half, too – although he could maybe add a touch or two of finesse to his all-energy performances to move up another level. 8
James Hardy – the silky attacking midfielder combined neatly with Pring in the first quarter of the contest, but when played on the left, he relies heavily on the attacking intent of his corresponding left-back and when Pring did not overlap, Hardy ran himself into cul-de-sacs at times. Might be better suited to a central role but the ability was evident. 7

Elijah Adebayo – the former Swindon man looked bright when given the ball to feet and showed some nice touches, although he might have been slightly braver in terms of attacking lose balls at certain points. Despite his frame, engaging with the physical side of the game is not among Adebayo’s strong points. 5
Caolan Lavery – the former Sheffield Wednesday forward tapped home the fifth-minute opener, but did not do too much after that. He fell over after being booted the ball in the face and Ohman smelt blood and soon gave him another strong challenge, which seemed to affect his confidence. A surprising choice for the official man-of-the-match award, given that Lavery was taken off on the hour mark. 5

Josh Gordon (on 59) – did not make the greatest contribution in the final half-hour. 5
Wes McDonald (on 75) – was not able to affect the contest in his short time on the pitch. 5
Dan Guthrie (on 75) – brought on to provide some control but was unable to assert himself on the contest. 5

Grimsby Town

James McKeown – the long-serving goalkeeper tended to go long from goal-kicks, which may have been partly because the centre-backs in front of him are not especially technical. Guilty of parrying Holden’s low cross in the lead-up to the opener, but made up for that with six saves – even if none of them are likely to make any future DVDs. 6

Elliott Hewitt – the former Notts County man appears to fare far better at right-back than in central midfield; he delivered some excellent crosses from deep in the first half and supported play intelligently from behind, which meant that he found it easier to recover his defensive position when required. 8
Luke Waterfall – sometimes when Grimsby have a set piece, it’s taken for a given that Hanson will be the reference point, so it was useful for them at times to have another aerially accomplished player in the box to give the taker someone else to aim for – and Waterfall won two headers in the opposing 18-yard area in the first five minutes, which set the tone for his individual afternoon. Waterfall was excellent in both penalty areas and looks a hugely valuable asset. 9
Ludvig Öhman – it’s easy to see why Öhman picked up so many yellow cards in the second half of last season, because he defends in a very uncompromising fashion. If there is a 50/50 ball to fight for, he will put his whole body behind his attempts to win it – and the Swede is not necessarily shy to engage in the dark arts. He provided somewhat brutal treatment of Lavery when he recognized that the striker had been affected by an early hard ball in the face; Öhman will win his battles at all costs and, depending on one’s perspective, that is arguably an admirable trait in a defender. 9
Luke Hendrie – Grimsby shopped for quality over quantity in the summer, so Michael Jolley has found it hugely valuable, when there are fitness issues with left-backs Sebastien Ring and Liam Gibson, to have a right-back by trade happy to deputize – and Hendrie needed to be, given Hewitt’s form. Hendrie had difficulties handling Holden in the first half and, being left-footed, struggled to overlap Ogbu as confidently as would have been ideal; solid after the break but Gibson may yet come in to give Jolley a natural left-sider. 5

Jordan Cook – when Cook was at Walsall, he was used as a wide forward but Michael Jolley seems to like him in midfield. In fairness to the former Luton man, he chipped in admirably, did a steady job and made a valuable contribution to the second goal – although one imagines Harry Clifton might come in when available. 6
Jake Hessenthaler – the former Gillingham midfielder held the midfield together well; he was aggressive at times, disciplined at others and denied space for Walsall between the lines, especially at the early point of the second half. Hessenthaler did what Sinclair and Liddle did for Walsall but with a lot more energy. 7
Elliott Whitehouse – while at Lincoln, Whitehouse was effectively a number 10 looking to latch onto Matt Rhead’s knock-downs; while he fed off Hanson at times here, he appears to be operating slightly deeper – and has clearly broadened his passing range to do so. 7

Matt Green – the forward was a willing runner throughout and he also looked competent in the air; the former Lincoln man also produced an excellent cross for Hanson’s winner. With Ogbu coming inside at times, Green was tasked with stretching the play, which often meant moving further away from the ball and the immediate action so he perhaps made greater contributions to Grimsby’s attack than was ostensible. 7
James Hanson – both managers described the target man’s individual performance as the ultimate difference between the two teams. Hanson was an excellent reference point for diagonal balls from deep; he held the ball up well and brought others into play, then had the intelligence to peel onto the aerially weakest of Walsall’s defenders to bullet home a header, before converting from the spot shortly afterwards. The ex-Bradford man even contributed towards the game management side of things in the closing stages, using his experience to hold off opponents and give his team some breathing space – what a game! 9
Moses Ogbu – the wide forward looked lively in the first half and made some exciting runs in from the left-channel; one might have got more productivity out of him if he had an overlapping left-back on the other side stretching the play. Oddly, Ogbu was not directly involved in any of the goals or even too many of the chances created, so he can perhaps go up another gear. 6

Max Wright (on 69) – Grimsby lacked some pace and width at previous points, so there is reason to think Wright could have made a contribution at an even earlier stage – but he certainly made a telling impact with the time he had. Wright made a direct, counter-attacking run with nine minutes to go and was brought down in the box by Ring, winning the penalty from which Hanson converted. 8
Liam Gibson (on 78) – the left-back was brought on for Ogbu to close the game out and looked solid, but did not get any opportunities to show what he can do going forward due to the nature of the contest at that stage. Very likely to play against Scunthorpe in the EFL Trophy in midweek and might play himself into contention in league terms. 6
Mattie Pollock (on 83) – the 17-year-old continues to rise to every challenge that comes his way; just as well, seeing as he is now third-choice centre-back with Harry Davis sidelined. Like Gibson, should have a great opportunity to prove his worth in midweek, even if Waterfall and Öhman’s performance as a pair for the first time suggests he may remain on the fringes for now. 6