It’s been a long, hard season for Chris Hughton and Birmingham City who play their 53rd game of the campaign at Doncaster on Friday.
So much was said earlier this term about the number of games Blues would have to plough through in order to succeed – but the hard-working side seemed to take it in their stride.
Games came thick and fast but that didn’t affect results.
Blues got on with the job in hand and cruised towards the top end of the table.
At one stage automatic promotion was even in their grasp. However, in recent weeks they have started to feel the strain.
It was inevitable that at some stage they would tire and while Hughton and his players will not admit that, it’s obvious the freshness has not been there.
That’s little surprise given that since the turn of the year there have been just three weeks without a midweek fixture.
This week was the fourth.
It makes the five-day break since the last game against Cardiff on Sunday feel like a lifetime.
So far it’s been a good week.
Results on Tuesday night went in Blues’ favour. Middlesbrough and Leicester could only draw while Hull slipped to a surprise defeat at Portsmouth.
It meant Blues stayed in sixth place and lost little ground on those above.
They now travel to basement club Doncaster knowing a win will propel them up to fourth and leave them with a game in hand on their rivals after the weekend fixtures.
On Saturday six of the top seven are all playing each other so points will be dropped, which makes the trip to the Keepmoat Stadium of even more importance.
“Looking at the other fixtures, at some stage they are all playing each other,” said Hughton. “They can’t all win.
“For as much as the other results are important to us, it’s about winning our own games.
“If we win enough games we will be where we want to be.
“We won’t play well in every game through to the end of the season, but we’re going to have be ruthless enough and make sure that whatever we have to do to get some points we get them.
“We have got to go to West Ham and Brighton so we will be playing these other teams around us. It’s what happens when there are so many teams fighting up there.”
Blues have been hampered by defensive shortages in recent weeks, particularly in the full-back positions.
David Murphy, who missed last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Cardiff, will return after a one-match suspension.
Stephen Carr (knee) and Jonathan Spector (thigh) will both miss out, though, meaning Pablo Ibanez or Peter Ramage will cover at right-back.
Keith Fahey is also a doubt after missing the Cardiff game with a groin injury which has been affecting him for the past few weeks.
Up front Hughton must decide whether to stick with Erik Huseklepp, who scored last week, or bring back Nikola Zigic, who had scored in each of his previous two games before the weekend.
Caleb Folan is also pushing for a start.