It’s a tradition that Rochdale win away at Grimsby; that said, I’m predicting a 4-1 win for The Mariners.
Last time we played at Blundell Park, our team consisted of Spencer, Lomax, Kennedy, McArdle, Perkins, Muirhead, Jones, Doolan, Rundle, le Fondre and Murray. Tom Kennedy played at centre-back, Perkins played at left-back and Doolan played at being a professional footballer. We won 2-1 courtesy of Adam Le Fondre and Glenn Murray. Looking at our team that day (and considering we were languishing at 19th in the table), it seems as if we have a stronger side available than at the start of last season, despite the message-board rumblings about ambition. Russell has made the goalkeeper spot his own, we have a confident and settled back four, and we have two young strikers who are capable of scoring twenty a season at this level (plus the “best striker outside the league”).
Yet there remains doubt.
Perkins was a big loss, for little compensation, and we must get over the psychogical barrier his departure represents. How many times last season did we rely on Perkins to up the tempo, provide that bit of excitement, to take the game to our opponents? Keltie and Toner must quickly gel with Jonah if we are to succeed, and if they do I see us taking all three points against Grimsby, as we usually do. I think we have the keeper, the defence and the attack of a League One side; it’s just the bit in the middle that we’re unsure of.
As for the opponents, Grimsby finished 16th last year, but with the welcome distraction of a Wembley trip it may have seemed a fairly good season for the Mariners. This is perhaps telling of how far Grimsby have fallen over the last ten years or so. I was genuinely shocked to see a 1996-97 league table with Grimsby Town in the First Division (albeit in a relegation spot). 11 seasons later and they are firmly entrenched in League Two mid-tabledom. I don’t see any reason why they would finish any higher than 13th this year, or any lower than 17th.
Familiar faces at Blundell Park on Saturday could feature Parkin era player Jamie Clarke – an underrated centre-mid and overrated right-back – and Simon Heslop, the man we’d like to have bought, but not at that price. He is incidentally on a three-month loan there, which begs the question “Why weren’t we able to loan him?”.
The game itself is likely to be scrappy, as most season openers are, but our frankly better quality should see us through. Hopefully.
Possible Dale Lineup:
Russell, Ramsden, McArdle, Stanton, Kennedy, Buckley, Keltie, Jones, Rundle, Shaw, Dagnall
Subs: Spencer, Wiseman, Toner, le Fondre, Thorpe