While the dark clouds continue to sit steadily over MK Dons, the performances of a reinvigorated Robbie Muirhead are offering a brief respite.
In his first year south of the border since moving from Hearts, Muirhead has made 40 appearances for Dons, scoring two goals - both of them last season, and both of them screamers.
But after a promising start, his Dons career appeared to be coming off the rails. A regular from the bench until September, the 21-year-old was seldom seen in October, November and December, making just five appearances in three months.
His performances of late though have seen him grow in stature. He was the best player on the pitch at Oxford on New Year’s Day until he was withdrawn on 56 minutes, and turned the game on it’s head last Saturday at Walsall, twice coming close to opening the scoring in the second half as he emerged from the bench once more.
And with his improving performances, Muirhead is certainly making a growing impression on the Dons squad.
“He has been brilliant in the last few games,” said George Williams. “He nearly scored a couple of crackers at Walsall when he came on. He hasn’t played as much as he’d have liked, but he’s working hard, he has a great attitude and is trying to take his chances when they come along.
“People forget how young he is, and coming down from Scotland it takes time to adapt. I’m sure it was tough, but he’s a great lad, he has a lot of support from the boys and he gets on really well here. I’m sure his performances will keep improving as they have been.”
Manager Dan Micciche added: “We know Robbie can make an impact, and has a shot on him and he showed that (at Walsall). If we can get him into the pocket on the half turn, he has some end product.”
Arguable the biggest hindrance for Muirhead though is his natural position. During his year at Stadium MK, he has been deployed as the lone striker, as a pair, in the centre of midfield and on both flanks.
Assistant manager Keith Millen admitted finding the best position for Muirhead, and indeed other players in the Dons squad, is a priority in getting them out of the relegation zone.
“We need to learn about all the players, the best shape to get the most out of them,” he explained. “I’ve watched loads of clips, trying to learn of their strengths and just looking at his stature, you can tell he’s strong, a powerful athlete and has a strong left foot. He had a good chance at Walsall last week when he cut inside, and if he hit the target, it was going in.
“He’s one we’ve not seen a lot of yet, so that’s the most difficult task. His attitude has been good and he’s working hard.”