Talk of the Town: Same position - but two different players
By Matt Dannatt
THERE were some Grimsby Town fans who were surprised by Derek Niven's early substitution at Hyde on Tuesday evening.
Some said it was too early, others pointed to the Scot's visible disappointment at being taken off, arguing that the move – after only 30 minutes – would be damaging to the midfielder's morale.
But, sat in the press box, it struck me as a brave move by two managers who acted quickly in attempting to turn the tide of a game that was rapidly getting away from their side.
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On in Niven's place came Andi Thanoj, the young midfielder who has only made one start so far this season, and so was understandably eager to stake his claim.
For the most part, the bosses were justified in making the change as Thanoj did, on the whole, impress at Ewen Fields.
He played a key role in, as Paul Hurst termed it recently, 'getting the Mariners playing', as they clawed their way back from 2-0 down to 2-2 and looked likely to seal a dramatic comeback.
But when Town didn't recover the ball in the middle of the park, the Tigers made their way into Town's half.
The ball eventually fell to Mark Brown on the edge of the area, who, under little pressure until it was too late, hit a shot that deflected off Aswad Thomas, past a helpless James McKeown.
The game in Lancashire underlined what both Thanoj and Niven bring to the Mariners' table – but also, what they don't.
In previous games, Niven has been excellent in providing an effective shield to a back four that, despite that midweek loss, still boast the best defensive record in the league.
The former Chesterfield man does get through a lot of the work that often goes unnoticed – breaking up attacks before they have chance to develop and hassling the opposition when out of possession.
His partnership with Craig Disley in the middle of the park allows Town to play with two out-and-out wingers – something that has been the key to the success they have enjoyed so far this season.
However, Niven has been criticised in some quarters for his use of the ball, with some saying that he doesn't give Town the guile they need from midfield.
But, in fairness to Niven, that is not his game.
Thanoj on the other hand is a player that does like to get on the ball in more advanced areas of the field and create.
On Tuesday night, he brought something different to the midfield in that sense and played an important role in getting the Mariners back on terms.
But some pointed to Hyde's third goal as an illustration of what Town sacrificed by replacing Niven with the young Albanian.
It's a hypothetical notion, but a few fans that I've spoken to questioned whether a more defensively-minded midfielder, like Niven, would have stemmed the Hyde attack quicker or have got tighter to his opponents.
The two midfielders certainly offer something very different to the Town side and it's for Paul Hurst and Rob Scott to weigh up the respective attributes of the pair.
Recent games would suggest that the bosses have favoured the defensive qualities of the Scotsman.
But with Hurst, inset, suggesting that the management duo could make changes for this afternoon's game with Woking (3pm), maybe Thanoj has earned his opportunity.
What do you think? Who would you choose in the Mariners midfield? Comment on this story at www.thisisgrimsby.co.uk/sport, email me at email@example.com or Tweet me @mattdannatt