But it may be too late for him to fire O’Neill’s side into the play-offs.
The Reds missed an opportunity to get themselves into contention this week. Having only picked up one point from two games against Aston Villa and Ipswich Town, their chances now look slim.
They are still only three points off. But there are now four teams sat between themselves and the top six, with a few having games in hand.
It’s fair to say the situation may have been different had Grabban been available. He’s now been unavailable for the Reds’ last five Championship matches.
The Reds have been able to pick up seven points from a possible return of 15 during this time. The away games against Stoke City and Ipswich were when Grabban’s presence was most notably missed.
The 31-year-old generates fear within opposition defences, just by being on the pitch. Without him, the Reds have often looked toothless going forward.
Having scored 15 goals by the beginning of December, Grabban looked to be an absolute steal at the reported transfer fee of £6 million from AFC Bournemouth.
Despite going nine games without scoring over Christmas and missing the last five games through injury, the striker has still found the back of the net 16 times in all competitions this season.
That isn’t a record to be sniffed at. Only Marlon Harewood, Grant Holt, David Johnson and Rob Earnshaw have scored more than that in a season for the Reds in the last century.
Grabban is still regarded as one of the most dangerous strikers in the division. He’ll be confident he can break the 20-goal mark between now and the end of the season.
There’s no doubt that the Reds have missed his threat. They’ve become far too reliant on Joe Lolley in recent weeks, which hasn’t been helped by João Carvalho‘s struggles to get into the starting line-up.
O’Neill has previously hinted that the striker could’ve perhaps featured before now. But the Northern Irishman has clearly decided to take no risks over his troublesome Achilles injury.
Speaking on his fitness last week, O’Neill told the Nottingham Post: “Lewis is definitely making good progress. I know that the international break is just around the corner, I think the feeling is that, if he wants to come back and wants to be as pain free as possible, we will look at that.
“He is our leading goal scorer, he can find the net and that is something we very, very much need in the closing weeks.”
The Reds’ slim play-off chances may be boosted if Grabban can come back and immediately be firing on all cylinders. It’s unlikely that this will be the case though after a significant amount of time on the sidelines.
With just eight games left to play, time is slowly running out for the Reds to find the level of consistency required to make it into the top six.