It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that Shaun Miller is poised to start his first competitive fixture since December, writes James Shield.
Manager Nigel Clough dropped a pretty huge hint before Saturday’s visit to Shrewsbury Town while the centre-forward, recently recovered from a serious knee injury, was conspicuous by his absence during the Professional Development League encounter with Barnsley 48 hours later.
Whether Miller features in Clough’s first choice eleven at Colchester this weekend - the FA Cup first round tie could also provide an opportunity to assess Chris Porter - remains to be seen.
But, if he does get the nod, it would make one of the most eagerly anticipated dates on Miller’s footballing calendar even more special.
“I’ve always looked forward to the FA Cup and I’m fortunate to have enjoyed a fair bit of success in it already,” he told The Star. “Scoring twice against Port Vale last season is probably right up there as one of my best memories because, being from Crewe, that game was always a bit of a local derby.
“I’m not one of those who thinks it’s a distraction. There’s no such thing as a bad game to win and, if you do well in knockout competition, then you build momentum which is good for league form too.
“And, you just never know. We’ve seen before with teams like Chesterfield that, if you get through a few rounds, you never know how far you might go.”
Miller, aged 26, scored eight goals in 19 appearances after joining United from his hometown club a year ago before rupturing a cruciate ligament during Boxing Day’s League One fixture with Scunthorpe. Ten months of intensive treatment later, he returned to action against Micky Adams’ side earlier this term and has enjoyed two more outings, including the defeat at Greenhous Meadow, since.
Porter is also eligible for selection at the Weston Homes Community Stadium having recently being dispatched to Chesterfield on loan. The former Derby County marksman was seemingly destined for the exit door after failing to hold down a regular place under Clough’s predecessor David Weir but could be handed another opportunity to impress having worked with the 47-year-old at Pride Park.
Although Clough is expected to keep United’s team selection under wraps, he did express a desire to analyse all the options at his disposal after being appointed last month.
“There have been times when the physios have probably had to rein me in a little bit,” Miller said. “When you’re a footballer you just want to be out there playing again straight away but they’ve done the right thing by easing me in slowly and building it up step by step.
“That way, you limit the chances of picking-up something like a muscle strain which can set you back a little bit again. We probably need saving from ourself at times as footballers and they are the ones who know what’s best.”