COMPETITION for midfield starting places continues to cause Swindon Town manager Phil Brown a slight headache prior to this afternoon’s League Two clash against Colchester United in Essex.

The introduction of Martin Smith and Jak McCourt to Town’s midfield berths during last week’s successful trip to Notts County raised an eyebrow or two as first-team regulars Steven Alzate and Toumani Diagouraga lost their spots.

While Alzate scored after coming off the bench in the second half, Brown was impressed by the performances of both Smith and McCourt plus forward-thinking midfielder James Dunne.

Despite Town’s lacklustre start – which gifted Notts County three early chances in front of Lawrence Vigouroux’s net – a slight tactical change mid-way through the first half opened up the visitors’ midfield options, and has subsequently got Brown scratching his head prior to kick-off this afternoon at the Colchester Community Stadium.

Brown said: “Jak (McCourt) hasn’t had too many run outs from a starting position, so I’m still learning about him.

“I’m still learning about Martin Smith too.

“In the first 10 or 15 minutes (against Notts County) it looked like you could throw a blanket over the three of them.

“We had a numerical advantage, but not with the ball. That little change made a big difference.

“The competition for places in the middle of the park is fantastic for me, but I’ve got to get it right.

“I can’t just throw any three players in there – I need a nice of mix of who can do what while making sure no one treads on each other’s toes.”

Defensively, Brown will be challenge in the shape of Luke Norris - Town’s leading goalscorer last season.

Norris has notched eight goals for United this season after John McGreal made an offer in the summer which Brown admitted he couldn’t turn down.

“The sale of Luke Norris was not forced upon me,” said Brown.

“But the pairing of Luke and Marc Richards (last season) was something to be admired, certainly at this level.

“There were goals there, there was a threat, a physicality and a technicality.

“But the money that was on the table, it was my recommendation to the owner that that is good money for a player at this level.”