Grimsby Town manager Paul Hurst has conceded his side are still yet to have ‘nailed down’ a preferred playstyle following a worrying injury to key CB Naill Maher – with the Mariners’ L2 opener just 12 days away.
The 26-year-old versatile defender became Hirst’s first summer addition back in June, signing a two-year deal at Blundell Park following the expiry of his contract that brought his four-and-a-half year stay at Halifax to an end. Maher has undoubtedly earned his chance to step back into the EFL, managing a place in last year’s VNL team of the season whist marshalling the division’s tightest back-line.
Paul Hurst will, however, have to do without him in his opening fixtures after confirming the ex-Bolton man suffered a ‘damaged thigh’ against Hull City’s U23s in a recent friendly. This has prompted Hurst into a potential search for an additional CB, despite warning that any moves will not be imminent.
Most worryingly for the Mariners, Hurst has stated that his side are yet to have figured out their preferred playstyle with their opener against Leyton Orient less than two weeks away. Hurst has so far stuck with his tried and trusted 4-2-3-1, but has suggested his side have to ‘be able to change’, possibly hinting to a potential shift to a five-at-the-back formation. A system incredibly popular in English football’s lower tiers, a back five – if executed correctly – could give Grimsby additional defensive stability in a season likely to see them aiming to avoid the drop.
Paul Hurst won’t be the only manager feeling the pressures of a shortened pre-season. Nonetheless, this seems a worrying update for Grimsby fans to read. A shift to a back five would make sense, with Maher himself accustomed to the system and it’s potential from his time with Halifax, however a poorly executed system change could lead to a disjointed Mariners side in their opening few games.
If this is indeed what Hurst is hinting at, a new CB will undoubtedly be needed. Whilst Hurst can’t be blamed for wanting to take his time searching for what would be his eighth summer signing, a CB joining late in pre-season without much time to embed themselves could be a concern.
This is by no means a disaster for a side high on confidence following promotion, but could certainly lead to a rougher than wanted start to the season.