Michael Jolley’s Grimsby Town kick-off their EFL Sky Bet League Two campaign against Forest Green Rovers at Blundell Park this Saturday (3pm).
Town beat Mark Cooper’s men 3-0, through JJ Hooper’s second-half hat-trick, on the final day of last season, and the Mariners will be hoping to start the new campaign with three points this weekend.
The Mariners’ victory ensured they ended the season five games unbeaten, which included four wins and a draw, as Jolley’s side finished 18th in the league – three positions above 21st-placed Forest Green.
But there have been plenty of changes in personnel – both at Blundell Park and The New Lawn – this summer, so there may be a raft of new players involved in Saturday’s league opener.
Forest Green – who are gearing up for just their second season in the EFL – have been very busy in the transfer window and have made some valuable additions to their squad ahead of the new campaign.
Their key signings are arguably midfielder Llloyd James, for an undisclosed fee from Exeter City, Welsh international forward George Williams, on a two-year deal, from Fulham, and defensive-midfielder Paul Digby, on a two-year contract, from Mansfield Town.
They have also signed attacking midfielder Carl Winchester, on a two-year deal, from Cheltenham Town and left-back Joseph Mills from Australia A-League side Perth Glory – also on a two-year contract.
Other notable signings include forward Tahvon Campbell from West Brom, winger Isaac Pearce from Fulham, right-back Liam Shephard from Peterborough United, and winger Theo Archibald on loan from Brentford.
But Mark Cooper has also allowed notable names to leave the club this summer – such as Keanu Marsh-Brown who signed for Newport County, Dan Wishart who joined Sutton United, and goalkeeper Sam Russell who became Town’s new goalkeeper coach.
Ones to watch
This weekend’s visitors will be hoping for a better season than last year – in which they lost to Town twice in the league – and they certainly have the talent in their ranks to achieve that in the 2018/19 campaign.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, striker Christian Doidge is Forest Green’s most dangerous threat to Town this weekend. The 25-year-old scored 25 goals in all competitions last season, which included four in his final six league games as he finished the season in fine form.
The 6ft2in Welsh striker, who has scored 52 goals in 92 career appearances for Forest Green, has been linked with a move away from The New Lawn this summer, but looks set to start the season with the Nailsworth side.
Dayle Grubb started last season in the National League South with Weston-super-Mare, where he had spent nine years alongside his full-time job as a teacher by the time his stay came to an end. The attacking-midfielder scored 88 goals in 298 games for the Seagulls before Forest Green snapped him up for an undisclosed fee on an 18-month contract in January.
He was in fine form for Mark Cooper’s side after signing in January, scoring five goals in 22 games and becoming a vital part in their turnaround in the second-half of the season, which helped them secure EFL safety. And, after his first full EFL pre-season, it will be interesting to see how the 27-year-old performs in League Two this term.
Lloyd James’s move to Forest Green this summer came as a surprise, after the defensive-midfielder made 50 appearances for Exeter City last season – including a role in each of their three play-off matches as they lost 3-1 to Coventry City in the final at Wembley.
The 30-year-old, who made 99 appearances during his two seasons at St James Park, will add a calm and experienced head to Forest Green’s midfield, which was arguably lacking last season, and could be vital in their League Two campaign as they look to improve on last year’s 21st-placed finish.
It could certainly prove to be an exciting opening-day fixture when Town and Forest Green clash at Blundell Park on Saturday, as the new-look Mariners will hope to continue their unbeaten league run from the end of last season.