Persistence pays off as Boston United land Shane Byrne - but how could new-look midfield line-up?

Pilgrims manager Craig Elliott tried out four different formations last season...

Shane Byrne battles with former Boston United midfielder Jamie McGuire. Photo: David Dawson

Hard work has paid off for Boston United as they made Shane Byrne their second summer signing.

The creative midfielder has ended his five-year stay with National League North rivals Brackley Town - during which he won the FA Trophy and helped Town become play-off regulars - to become a Pilgrim.

"I am absolutely delighted to sign a player of Shane's quality," United manager Craig Elliott told bufc.co.uk.

"He is a highly-regarded player within our league and he has consistently been challenging for promotion with a very strong Brackley team for a number of years."

But persistence paid off as Boston finally got their man, making the former Nuneaton Town player their second new arrival of the summer, following Jordan Preston into the Jakemans Community Stadium.

"I have been trying to sign him for such a long time as he never failed to impress when I watched him play and even this summer, I had to be patient due to the quality of teams trying to sign him," Elliott added.

Experienced Paul Green is among United's midfield options. Photo: Oliver Atkin

"Shane's desire to be successful was apparent when I met him and I am glad he wants to be part of the vision of our club on and off the pitch.

"I am really looking forward to working with him."

While delighted with Byrne's arrival, Elliott is now tasked with figuring out a formation to get the best from his charges.

Byrne joins Andi Thanoj, Connor Dimaio, Paul Green and Tom Platt as the club's midfield options.

Tom Platt could be first choice in the holding role. Photo: Oliver Atkin

Elliott has tended to favour a 4-3-3 formation over the past two seasons, more often than not with a relatively settled back four and goalkeeper.

Putting plenty of faith in his stoic defence and getting his rewards, Elliott has traditionally made more changes through midfield and up front - both pre-match and during - as he regularly packs his bench with more attacking options than defensive ones.

Elliott's team lined up for the first 11 of last season's 17 matches in a 4-3-3 formation (and also the abandoned contest at Darlington), every time with three of his central midfielders in the middle of the park.

If the manager sticks with this shape, Elliott would likely again task three of his five midfielders - most probably Tom Platt as the anchor and two teammates in more advanced positions - with looking to break up play and feed the ball into attacking options which include Preston, his brother Fraser, Terry Hawkridge Jay Rollins, Jordan Burrow and Jake Wright, possibly even Joe Leesley.

Dependable dead ball specialist Andi Thanoj was one of Craig Elliott's first signings when he joined Boston in 2017. Photo: Oliver Atkin

However, Elliott last played the 4-3-3 formation in December's 3-0 FA Trophy win at Evesham, abandoning it for the final six games.

In four of those - victories over Alfreton Town and Farsley Celtic, plus the draws against Bradford Park Avenue and Kettering - he played 4-4-2.

While this could initially be seen as taking a more cautious approach, on every one of those four occasions Elliott selected two out-and-out central midfielders flanked by wingers, only adding a third central option to shore things up against Alfreton when there was a lead to protect and just a two-day turnaround before the next match.

Elliott may choose a 4-4-2 formation with a third central midfielder next season if he wants to play it safe. However, that may not be the case judging by last season's selections.

Indeed, for the FA Trophy visits of National league North highfliers AFC Fylde and National League Chesterfield, Boston tried out two different formations.

Elliott went 4-2-3-1 against Fylde with Green and Platt sharing holding role duties. For the arrival of Chesterfield, Boston switched to 3-5-2, with Green, Thanoj and Dimaio flanked by Rollins and Hawkridge.

Connor Dimaio caught the eye during his first season with Boston. Photo: Oliver Atkin

While any of these formations would probably see two or three of Boston's central midfielders miss out on a starting berth, suspensions, injuries and what the Pilgrims hope to be a busy schedule of league and cup action could well see all five utilised.

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