Shaun Miller’s strike rate of one goal every 69.7 minutes on the pitch puts him well above the division’s most feared marksmen like Cambridge United’s Paul Mullin (124.1), Tranmere’s James Vaughan (128.9) and even his own team-mate Eoin Doyle (200.9).
He may only have four strikes to his name, the most recent being the consolation in defeat at Grimsby Town, but there has been a growing debate among Wanderers supporters that the 33-year-old should be regarded as more than just an impact substitute.
Injuries have not helped Miller mount a case for regular inclusion, with a calf problem keeping out for most of last September and October, then a major hamstring tear accounting for December, January and most of February.
In between, he has managed 23 appearances, all but one of which have been from the substitute’s bench.
It is to the striker’s credit, though, that even with one game of the regular season to go, there is still an argument being put forward on a weekly basis that Miller should be viewed as a foil to Doyle up front, rather than as a direct replacement.
Miller’s appearances off the bench have usually seen him replace the Irishman in the central striker’s role of a 4-2-3-1 but on Saturday we saw him swapped for Dapo Afolayan and play just behind Doyle.
This Saturday, Ian Evatt will almost certainly have to shuffle his pack with Kieran Lee unlikely to shake off a calf injury in time to keep his place in midfield.
The obvious replacement is George Thomason, the young midfielder who has been Wanderers’ breakout star of the season.
Thomason has played alongside MJ Williams in the holding midfield role without Lee on three occasions, wins against Stevenage and Scunthorpe and a draw against Morecambe, all of which were played at the University of Bolton Stadium.
But with Antoni Sarcevic now fit enough to start games, one possibility for Wanderers would be to bring the captain into a deeper midfield role and add another goalscoring threat, such as Miller, into the front four.
Only Oldham Athletic have given up more goalscoring opportunities than Crawley Town this season, the Latics averaging 14.5 shots against per game, compared to the Reds’ 13.5. Wanderers, by comparison, have a seasonal average of 11.9 and are ninth in the division.
Finding the extra goal threat, over and above the 18-goal Doyle, has been problematic for Wanderers in the last few weeks.
Their winning margins have been narrow for the vast majority of the season and though they have regularly warranted bigger score-lines with the quality of their play and chances created, there have been many occasions where the second goal would have made life a lot easier.
Goal difference is on Morecambe’s side on Saturday but would only come into play if the Shrimps took a point against Bradford and Bolton lost at Crawley.
But with such a lot riding on the outcome, the ability to take chances and reduce pressure will be of paramount importance to the Whites.
Wanderers have averaged 10.5 shots away from home in the league this season, 3.2 on target, which is a mid-table return, and potentially a surprising one given that they have reserved some of their best performances for the road through much of this season.
Rather the Whites have relied on a solid and dependable structure and an ability to ‘find a way’ to score, despite the relative lack of attacking pressure.
Miller’s impact off the bench against Southend, Barrow at home, or in the dying stages of the Grimsby game show he may well be worth a second look.
The bookmakers make Evatt’s men as short as 6/4 on favourites to win the game at the People’s Pension Stadium but their opponents appear only too happy to play the part of party-poopers.
If Wanderers need to eliminate any complacent thoughts heading into Saturday they might well study Crawley’s form against the leading sides in the division.
John Yems’ side have taken points off every team in the top nine and have registered victories against all but Newport County.
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