The Grecians will be looking to extend their run of three unbeaten as they face bottom of the table Grimsby Town at St James Park on Saturday.
Ahead of the 1pm kick-off, Sam Moakes takes a look at three to look out for on the Mariners side...
It's something of a rare sight in football, but Grimsby Town’s captain and key-player is also the man between the sticks, James McKeown. The keeper has been at the club since 2011, and is the club’s longest serving player. McKeown had a pretty uneventful career before being picked up by Town, turning out for Peterborough, a few National League clubs on loan and Dutch side RKSV Leonidas.
Originally signed to provide a challenge to Kenny Arthur, ‘Macca’ has registered over 400 league appearances for Grimsby, winning four Player of the Year trophies for the club in his nine years. The Grimsby shot stopper has missed a few games recently due to Covid protocols but has commented on the necessity of the squad to improve, curtesy of the Grimsby telegraph: “We can only control certain things on the pitch, and no matter what the gaffer comes in and does, and regardless of whatever happens with the takeover, the players – me and everybody else – have to step up a fair chunk”.
Picking key players for a team at the bottom of the table is extremely difficult given their circumstances. But someone who is probably worth a mention is Matthew Pollock. Whilst he may not be a recognisable ‘key man’, given the number of goals the side has shipped recently, the defender is just 19 and has performed admirably in his second full season in League Two.
A stat that probably tells the story of the Mariner’s season, Pollock is also Grimsby’s top scorer, with three goals in 24 matches. The youngster also scored against Leicester under-21’s in the Football League Trophy earlier this campaign. After a time on the Leeds United books, Pollock came through the youth process at Grimsby before making his debut in a 2-1 win against Exeter in December 2018. The defender was just 17 at that point and has since learnt massively after a good run in the side.
Idris El Mizouni
In the absence of a real goal scorer in this struggling side, we are going to go with another youngster in the team with Idris El Mizouni. The 20-year-old joined Paul Hurst’s side in the January transfer window on-loan from Ipswich, having previously played under Hurst in his managerial spell at Portman Road.
Whilst he only started three times for Ipswich this year, El Mizouni has made a further eight appearances from the substitutes bench. The creative midfielder has started the last two matches since joining Grimsby, as Paul Hurst looks to find a winning formula to get the side out of trouble. Having been born in France, El Mizouni has won one cap for Tunisia, and has also had two spells on loan at Cambridge United in his short career in English football so far. No doubt as promising as the youngster is, the team around him will need to be more stable if he is to perform well.