We’ve entered the business end of the season. This is the nitty gritty and make no mistake about it, Saturday’s game at Millwall is huge.
Spirits ahead of the final six games have been lifted somewhat as the second half performance of a good win over fellow play off hopefuls Bradford seemed to suggest we are on the verge of a bit of a revival at a crucial stage.
And the continuation of Millwall’s little slump, a 2-0 defeat at Sheffield United on Tuesday evening, means a win at the New Den could go a long way towards the Iron securing a play off position.
The green shoots of a Spring recovery are appearing in a timely manner at Glanford Park, but this lunchtime we were dealt a big, albeit expected blow ahead of the final run in. Graham Alexander delivered the news that Charlie Goode will miss the rest of the season with ankle ligament damage following landing awkwardly during Sunday’s 3-2 win over Bradford.
It is a pity for us and for the player as he is clearly developing into a good defender, putting in his best performances alongside the likely winner of the majority of the end of season gongs- Murray Wallace. It will be even more frustrating for Goode himself given the fact he had just broken back into the side after a couple of months on the bench.
The ever dependable Mirf will slot back into the defence on Saturday at Millwall and is unlikely to let us down, but it does start to leave us looking a little bit short again. Mirf has been struggling for form since returning from his own injury and has admittedly looked less solid than before. This was epitomised by his performance in the home defeat to Wimbledon where he uncharacteristically struggled with a really average player in Dom Poleon; a duel he would have won with minimal fuss prior to his latest knock. It made difficult viewing as one of his biggest fans.
Our terrible run of form since February had actually coincided with Mirfin’s return, which although likely to be pure coincidence, was enough of a coincidence for Alexander to include Goode instead against Bradford on Sunday.
Although alarm bells aren’t ringing just yet, Mirf’s injury record does leave a nagging doubt in the mind. With six left to play and the potential of a further three, his unfruitful attempts to sign Oldham defender Peter Clarke may well come back to haunt us with no real recognised center backs left in the squad.
Jordan Clarke, Scott Wiseman or even Matt Crooks could perhaps fill in, but it would be a shame if we had to resort to playing somebody in an unfamiliar role to fill a position that really should have been strengthened when we had the chance.
It would probably have been unwise for the club to overspend on Clarke, 35, whose best days are definitely behind him and there would have been no guarantee after being held to ransom for an inflated fee, that he would have been able to step up to Championship football. That said, he may have been the final part of the jigsaw that pushed us over the finishing line.
It would be regretful if the lack of recruitment in January, in an area most fans highlighted as critical, had an impact on whether or not we do in fact reach the Championship this season.
We will just have to hope that Mirfin and Wallace, who has played for more minutes than any other League One player this season, manage to steer clear of injuries in the final push.
If they do and Mirfin can regain something like his old form, we should just about be alright.