Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough believes that scoring the winning goal during Tuesday’s FA Cup fourth round replay at Fulham can help Shaun Miller recapture his best form, writes James Shield.
Miller, who suffered a potentially career threatening knee injury against Scunthorpe 14 months ago, set-up a mouth-watering meeting with Nottingham Forest when he pounced with only a minute of extra time remaining in front of 3,000 travelling fans.
By Clough’s own admission, the 26-year-old has often looked a pale shadow of the player who once terrorised League One defences since returning to action earlier this term.
But, speaking as his team prepares to resume its battle against relegation from League One, Clough said: “We’re elated for Shaun because it’s a special time for him after becoming a father recently.
“He’s been struggling a bit after coming back. It’s strange because he’s struggled in training as well lately, missing a couple of sitters during the session before the game.
“Then, when we practiced penalties, I think he missed one of those as well. But he’s put that right now hasn’t he.
“We’ve not felt confident bringing him on at times because he’s been short of confidence himself. Hopefully, though, this will spur him on.”
United’s progress in knockout competition has come at a price with their efforts to claw themselves out of the bottom four complicated by a fixture calendar which sees them play seven matches in 25 days following tomorrow’s visit of fellow strugglers Shrewsbury Town.
With Jose Baxter reportedly omitted from the starting eleven which faced Fulham due to fatigue, being able to call upon a fully functioning Miller would be a welcome boost for Clough as he attempts to steer United through their most gruelling period of their season so far.
“Confidence is a huge component in football and in football teams,” Clough said. “It’s important that we take something from what we did (at Fulham) into the league because it’s all well and good beating a Premier League side but that is still our priority.
“Some of our performances in the league have been good but we’ve not always got our reward for that. Whereas, in the cup, we’ve done well but also had some breaks which we haven’t enjoyed elsewhere.
“We could do with some breaks in the league too.”
“When we are in the league, even away from home, we are the big club which is there to be shot at,” Clough added. “Irrespective of our position.
“We are one from bottom and now we’ve got 19 games to get ourselves out. All we are thinking of is being ready.”
United, two places and a point behind Town in 23rd, entertain Forest on February 16 (kick-off 3pm) which means their trip to Gillingham, which had been scheduled to take place on the same date, must be rearranged. With that in mind, Clough is poised to enter the transfer market before Wednesday’s visit of leaders Brentford.
Tickets for the tie are priced £15 (adults), £10 (adults ST holders), £10 (concessions) and £5 (under-16’s) if purchased in advance.