The 2010-11 season hasn't exactly been kind to Sheffield United or to pint-sized striker Jamie Ward.
Ahead of this weekend's sentimental FA Cup third-round date with first club Aston Villa at Bramall Lane, the frontman – whose haul of 31 goals in 74 matches persuaded the Blades to shelve out 330,000 on him from Chesterfield two years ago this month – had yet to find the net this term.
The Solihull-born ace's travails have pretty much mirrored those of the Blades, perilously close to the Championship trapdoor with the major flaw in a season to forget thus far being a lack of goals –- with the side having the worst goals-for record in the Championship.
But a new year brings new hope and the last thing Ward, just like United, will be caught doing is hiding with the 24-year-old confident that the goals will start to flow once the scoreless monkey is off his back.
An old adage in football is that if you work hard enough, your rewards will eventually arrive and United certainly provided evidence of that on Bank Holiday Monday, when they displayed bucketloads of perspiration in a 2-2 come-from-behind derby with Doncaster Rovers, which felt as good as a win, given the hosts were 2-0 down with five minutes left.
The same character and workaholic tendencies were displayed in the hugely-unfortunate 3-2 last-gasp home loss to Hull City on Boxing Day when the Blades staged a thrilling recovery after trailing 2-0 before being denied at the death.
And as starting-points in battles against relegation go, the Blades certainly have something for new boss Micky Adams, pictured right, to work from.
The up-and-at-'em style of old which warmed the cockles of many a Unitedite in the days of Neil Warnock and stretching a few decades back – Dave Bassett –- was in evidence in both matches and you sense whatever happens to the Blades between now and May, they won't be found wanting in terms of endeavour and work-rate under another heart-on-sleeve boss in Adams – a lifelong Blade fan to boot.
Desperate for the club and himself to turn the corner, Ward said: "My season has not been great up to now. I've had a couple of good games, but I'm not happy with myself with the way it's going.
"I think it's just scoring and getting my first goal that I need. That will give me a bit more confidence and then if I can carry on, my confidence will keep building.
"Just anything will do, a little one-yard tap-in or something. Hopefully, that will get me on my way.
"I'm trying my best as we all are. No-one can ever fault our commitment because we always give 110 per cent. Sometimes, the results don't go for us – and they haven't been doing quite a bit this season –- but we always give everything.
"In the Hull game, we were 2-0 down and could have just given up. Because we were bright, we got the crowd on their feet and behind us and it was heartbreaking to concede that goal in the last minute after working so hard to get back in it at 2-2.
"Maybe we should have consolidated when we got back to 2-2.
"But at least, we got something from the Doncaster game and we showed our character again."
While Unitedites have bemoaned a dearth of goals this term, two strikes in the holiday matches against Yorkshire rivals Rovers and Hull, not to mention the 4-2 defeats to Norwich City and Burnley, has at least suggested that the club do possess some firepower in their locker.
Unfortunately, Lady Luck also hasn't exactly been kind to them this season, both in terms of injuries and costly and game-changing decisions, which proved particularly telling in the festive loss at Carrow Road on December 28.
The Blades conceded two hugely-debatable penalties en route to another setback – making it a total of six converted spot-kicks against them in six Championship matches. And the late dismissal of midfielder Stephen Quinn added to supporters' ire and proved the maxim that when you are down at the bottom, your luck is out.
Ward rued: "Luck hasn't been on our side with referees and stuff. We've not got many decisions – everything seems to go against us.
"We can't do anything about it. Referees make decisions and obviously, they think they are right.
"But there's been a few decisions this year that should never have been given against us, two penalties at Norwich for example. Hopefully things will turn."
There couldn't be a more opportune occasion for the tide to have changed in Ward's direction than this weekend's cup clash with Villa, with affiliations split amongst his family, several of whom are dyed-in-the-wool supporters of the claret-and-blue.
Come what may, the Ward family planned to head out for a bite to eat and a chinwag following the Lane encounter and few would begrudge former Villa reserves captain Ward, who left his boyhood club without ever kicking a first-team ball in anger for them, some bragging rights after a difficult campaign in South Yorkshire.
Speaking ahead of the clash, Ward, part of Villa's side in 2004 that lost the FA Youth Cup final to Middlesbrough where he played alongside the likes of ex-Blade defender Gary Cahill, Luke Moore and England international Gaby Agbonlahor, said: "Most of the family are Villa fans and it's going to be a big day for me. But I've just got to look at it as another game.
"I was asked to get a few tickets, but I couldn't get enough.
"I was there at Villa for a long time as a kid. I only really know Gaby from when I was there as well as a couple of the younger lads in Barry Bannan, Mark Albrighton and Jonathan Hogg.
"My mum and dad are Villa fans and my brother is and they will enjoy the day, but hopefully they will have been supporting me."
With the home front taking precedence for Ward, the frontman admits that thoughts of a recall to the Northern Ireland squad aren't exactly on his radar at the moment, having been initially called up back in March 2009 for two World Cup qualifiers.
He said: "I've had no thoughts, to be honest. I've not been in the past four or five squads and it's not on my mind at the moment.
"It's one of those things. I just need to get my club football right because that's the most important thing.
"I need to be playing week-in, week-out and get that sorted."
And for the time being, all Ward is saying is: 'Give me a goal'.
Meanwhile, the Blades have suffered a big injury blow with defender Andy Taylor missing the rest of the season after being diagnosed with a torn cruciate ligament.
The former Tranmere Rovers full-back limped off during the Boxing Day meeting with Hull City and his worst fears were realised when the full extent of the damage was revealed just prior to the defeat by Burnley on New Year's Day.
Taylor joined defensive lieutenant Chris Morgan on the sidelines with the Blades skipper ruled out until the summer after sustaining cruciate ligament damage in the 1-0 home loss to Coventry City on October 30.
New boss Adams has pledged to look at recruitment in the coming week, with some new defensive recruits one of his priorities.
However, he was keen to point out that all the current personnel will have a "clean slate" during the first few weeks of his reign.