BROWNE ON THE BALL: Scott Garner - an exception to the rule

Scott Garner.
Scott Garner.

Dennis Greene has long sung the praises of footballers who can play in a number of different positions.

In the Vanarama North - where managers don’t have the pleasant headache of beginning the season by whittling down their charges into a 25-man first-team squad - having square pegs which can slot into round holes can often be the difference between victory and embarrassing defeat.

Scott Garner.

Scott Garner.

Given the Boston United manager’s belief that his players are talented enough to work in a variety of situations, plus his penchant for switching formations and tactics to cater to the opposition, it’s hardly surprising that we’ve seen Zak Mills deployed as a centre back, right back and right winger this campaign.

Likewise, Rene Steer, Conor Marshall, Jamie McGhee and Liam Marrs are among those to have been utilised in different areas, while Greg Tempest has taken his turn at full back, on the wing and - bizarrely enough - in goal.

Despite this flexibility, the unwritten rule is simple - you play your best players in their best positions.

But there’s always an exception to the rule isn’t there?

Yes, Scott Garner, I’m talking to you.

The Pilgrims captain is one of the squad’s best two central defenders, yet he’s started in the heart of defence about as many times as Hyde have won league matches this season.

And the reason for that is simple, because he is arguably more effective elsewhere on the pitch.

He began pre-season as a target man and scored goals. But since the club got down to business he has been predominantly used as a ball-winning central midfielder - thrown further forward when the side are chasing the game and thrust back into defence if there’s a late lead to hang on to.

He may be at his strongest in defence, but there is less pressure on the Pilgrims’ back line if Garner’s there in front to stop the opposition’s attacks gaining momentum.

Plus, playing in midfield offers him more chances to get forward and add to those 10 goals he has scored for the club.

Garner’s importance to the team is evident by the fact that he is just one of five players currently under contract beyond this season (Carl Piergianni, Kaine Felix, Kyle Dixon and Sam Vince being the others).

And don’t forget that he has never been named as a substitute in a competitive match, missing just four of the 82 contests played since his arrival, two because of a head injury and two because of suspension.

The captain has only failed to start one contest this season, when he was suspended for the home draw with Brackley.

But all that will change on Saturday as he begins a two-match ban, received for picking up his 10th yellow card of the campaign during the 5-1 victory over Gusieley.

There’s no good time to be without your skipper, but being without Garner for matches against the bottom two - Hyde and Bradford Park Avenue - is perhaps more fortunate than being without his services for the following two crunch clashes away at promotion-chasing Fylde and Guiseley.

Boston’s squad should be strong enough to compensate in his absence, just as it was the last time Garner missed two in a row (victories against Barrow and Stafford last season).

Since joining United, Garner’s tenacious ability has seen him command more positions than the first few pages of the Karma Sutra.

For the next two matches he will be spending 90 minutes in the most frustrating place for any footballer - watching from the stands.

He will be missed. He will always be missed. But, hopefully, not too much.