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Wimbledon Preview

By: Stephen Bateman
Date: 12/12/2000

As the Mariners enter Wednesday night's fixture with Wimbledon, they find themselves in a desperate situation. Grimsby have managed just one win in their last nineteen away league fixtures and face yet another uphill struggle at Selhurst Park.

Grimsby Town

After another dismal performance, this time against Tranmere on Saturday, Grimsby boss Lennie Lawrence must be left wondering what he can do to reverse his side's recent decline. After an impressive showing during October, Lawrence's men have now slid back into the relegation zone after an appalling run of form which has seen them take just one point from the last eighteen that have been available.

The Mariners cause has not been helped by an unbelievably lengthy injury list. Peter Handyside, Bradley Allen, Richard Smith, Steve Livingstone, John McDermott, Knut Anders Fostervold, Jonathan Rowan, David Smith, Stacey Coldicott, Alan Pouton, Danny Butterfield and Paul Raven are all doubts for the trip to South London. Lawrence commented after the Tranmere defeat:

"We have 10 players in the treatment room and now we have got two more (McDermott and Fostervold), so that is probably a career record in terms of a percentage of the squad out through injury."

Michael Jeffrey, currently the fans favourite whipping-boy, looks set to start his second consecutive game in attack for Town alongside David Nielsen, while Steve Livingstone seems certain to miss out once again with a back injury that appears to be far worse than was first thought.

Town's assistant manager, John Cockerill summed up the current injury crisis as he admitted:

"I haven't got a clue what team we'll be taking. I guess we'll patch up who ever we can and send them out, but who will play is anyone's guess. We'll need a roll call on Tuesday before we can sit down and even begin to think about who might be on the bus."

Once again, it is in defence that Lawrence's major concerns lie. John McDermott will undergo an X-ray which is expected to confirm that Saturday's injury was a broken toe that could sideline the Mariners record-breaking defender for a number of weeks, while Lawrence also admitted it was "highly unlikely" that centre-half Peter Handyside would be fit for Wednesday's fixture.

Richard Smith made an impressive return to first team action against Tranmere, although he was substituted midway through the second-half and is obviously not yet fully match-fit. It seems likely, however, that Smith will start at Selhurst Park, partnered once again by makeshift defender and club captain, Paul Groves.

It was rumoured earlier this week that Crewe boss, Dario Gradi, had made an unlikely loan bid for the experienced Groves, but had been unsurprisingly told by Lawrence that the midfielder was currently unavailable.


The Dons can be expected to be their usual belligerent selves on Wednesday, as they bounce into the match on the back of an emphatic 3-0 victory against Birmingham at St. Andrew's on Saturday. Two goals from midfielder Damien Francis and another from former England Under-21 striker Jason Euell sealed another impressive away performance.

With eight goals so far this season, Euell is currently the Wombles joint league top-scorer alongside Welsh international John Hartson. Recent reports have suggested that Wimbledon's Norwegian owners have told manager Terry Burton to slash the club's wage bill, and that Chelsea are currently in negotiations over a deal that will take Euell to Stamford Bridge.

Meanwhile, Hartson has been linked to practically every top-flight side in both England and Scotland, but remains a Don largely through an inability to pass a club medical. The fiery Welshman was sent-off against Birmingham at the weekend after a "mis-timed" tackle on Blues defender Darren Purse, but will be available for Wednesday's clash.

Swedish midfielder Par Karlsson made an effective Wimbledon debut on Saturday and could well be set to terrorise the patched-up Grimsby defence on Wednesday night. Terry Burton said of the young Swede:

"Pecker played very well and we were very pleased with him. He has come in, got some good crosses in and never stopped working. He has waited patiently for his chance and took it very well."

Like Grimsby, Wimbledon have also suffered with injuries to key defenders such as Irish international Kenny Cunningham, Alan Kimble and Dean Blackwell. However, unlike Lennie Lawrence, Burton has been able to draw upon his reserves in times of crisis as he said he believes that his team has "a very young back-line, with about six defenders missing, but the young boys have down superbly."

Having clawed their way up to eleventh place in the first division, Burton will now be hoping that his team can improve upon their recent home form and mount a serious challenge on securing a play-off slot.


Grimsby's only away win this season came at Wednesday's venue, Selhurst Park, against Crystal Palace. Mariners fans should cling to this tiny glimmer of hope, as there is precious little else to suggest that Town will be a ble to halt their recent slide into the abyss against a rampant Wimbledon side.

Whilst the Dons have won three of their last four, Grimsby's last win came at the end of October with the 2-0 victory against West Brom.

The last meeting between the two clubs came about in the 1988/9 FA Cup when a shoal of inflatable haddocks invaded Plough Lane, only to leave in a rather more deflated manner after the Mariners went down to a 3-1 defeat.

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