Freeview: Watch Russell Slade's pre match interview (above).
Grimsby Town boss Russell Slade has been full of praise for Sky Bet League Two leaders Luton Town, ahead of the Mariners’ clash with Nathan Jones’ men at Blundell Park this Saturday (3pm).
Town, who are 16th, face Luton for the second time this season – following last month’s 2-0 defeat at Kenilworth Road – and boss Slade believes the Hatters will be promoted to League One this term.
Speaking on iFollow Mariners, he said: “They’re very good, I thought they were a cut above (in the December clash). Certainly early on in the game, they were excellent.
“They’re a certainty, in my mind, to get promotion. They’ve set the standard all season, they’ve got some very good players – they all know what they’re doing, and they’ll be a threat.”
But Slade said the focus is on his side, as the Mariners look to kick-on from their 1-1 draw at Colchester United last weekend.
“They’re a good side, but they’re not going to win every single game – nobody is – so they’re going to get their moments where things probably don’t go to plan.
“They’re not inflammable, they have lost football matches so it does give encouragement that they can be beaten.
“It is about us, and how we apply ourselves. We think we’ve done that well in recent weeks when results have gone against us.
“We know we’ve struggled a little bit – it’s about getting those goals when we’ve had our pressure. We’ve got enough about us to progress up the table, and that’s what we want to do,” he said.
And Slade admitted he’ll be evaluating the 5-3-2 formation, which Town used in last weekend’s draw in Essex, ahead of the Luton game.
He said: “We’re going to evaluate everything, and we already have, so we’ll look at a couple of things, but you’ve got to be very mindful of the opposition as well, and what their strengths are, as we go into this game.
“You can take the ball a little bit more with that extra midfielder, it gives you natural width with the wing-backs, but you can get exposed on the outside – two-v-one. So it has its weaknesses – its weaknesses are down the side of the football pitch.
“Your wing-backs are very important – their high positions can sometimes get exposed, but they can also get themselves forward and be a threat in the opponents’ box as well.
“It’s not so much about the systems, it’s about the attitude and how we apply ourselves to go and get the points.”
And the gaffer added that he’s been impressed with Charles Vernam in training, following the Derby County loanee’s first Town goal last weekend.
“He’s impressed in training, so we’ve been pleased about that. He gives us a slightly different dimension – I think he’s very clever, very bright, picks the ball up, he’s very direct, and in the last game he’s probably worked the keeper four or five times.
“He won’t settle for that, he won’t put a limit on what he can achieve and what he can do. He’s been patient waiting, he’s been unfortunate with a couple of injuries that he’s had over recent years.
“So he’ll be looking to have a really good loan spell here, and I knew he was capable of that, and I’m sure, injury-free, he’ll go on and have a fantastic time with us here.”
Sam Jones remains a doubt for the game, due to a bug, while Siriki Dembele looks set to return from his back injury, and Slade evaluated Jamille Matt at 50/50 to recover from his back and hamstring problems in time for the weekend.