Well, at least now it’s closer to the next game than the last one, so after a week of moping we can start to look forward. Unfortunately of course it is a home game, so if the past is any guide we may have to wait for the following Tuesday’s game to break the 50 points barrier. Eight games left, four home, four away. Unfortunately the ‘certainty bar’ didn’t budge last weekend. All that did change was that we have one game less to reach the 67 points that makes everything else completely irrelevant. Six wins and two draws are all that’s required, but that would mean a better win ratio for home games than we’ve achieved to date.
More realistically, I don’t mind crimping from the site that New York Addick alerted me to regarding probabilities of avoiding relegation (we’ll leave aside for now whether eight straight wins would get us a play-off spot). It suggests that 50 points will very likely not be enough (a relegation probability of around 90%), 51 probably won’t suffice (70.2-74.5% chance of relegation depending on the combination of results), while with 52 at least the odds are in your favour (40.9-46.3% chance of relegation). The chances of getting relegated with 53 drop significantly but at 15.0-22.5% don’t afford much comfort, especially as our last two home games are against teams in the bottom three (Wolves and Bristol City). The real comfort lies in 54 points (only a 2.9-5.7% chance of getting relegated), while 55 and you’re below a 1% chance of going down.
Bottom line would seem to be that, barring an unlikely (but not unacceptable) eight successive draws we probably need to win at least two of the games left and pick up a couple of draws to feel secure. I’m not inclined to suggest which games might produce them, it’s got to be about taking one at a time. After all, just about every game left is against a team either fighting for survival (Barnsley, Wolves, Bristol City), scrapping for a play-off spot (Bolton, Brighton, Leeds, Middlesbrough), or looking to cement automatic promotion (Cardiff). If there’s one priority, it’s clearly not losing against any of the three currently below us. I feel the long-overdue season’s daft away trip for me beckoning (Barnsley).
We’re clearly not safe and are involved in the relegation mix (albeit we’d not be among anyone’s current picks to go down). It has reached the stage now where I’ll be looking as much at others’ results as our own, as over Easter we’re rooting for the teams around the top (with one obvious exception). Peterborough host Cardiff and then travel to Middlesbrough; Wolves are at home to Middlesbrough before travelling to Birmingham, while Bristol City travel to Derby then host Sheff Wed. Add in a six-pointer local scrap between Sheff Wed and Barnsley on Saturday and clearly all could be a good deal clearer after the holiday break (well, by definition as it period contains 25% of the remainder of the season it has to be).
Which brings us to Saturday and Bolton. My only suggestion regarding our home record is just forget it, put it out of people’s minds. It’s irrelevant. We’ve endlessly mulled over possible reasons for the differences between our home and away form (or at least results) and I’m not sure that there’s anything to be gained, or learnt, from it all now. All that has gone before is far less important than the eight games left; treat it like a mini-season with no baggage.
That said, we do have one possible advantage for Saturday. Bolton will no doubt be aware that to grab a play-off spot they have to virtually win all their remaining games. They must see travelling to our patch as one that they have to take three points from. That clearly doesn’t mean they are going to adopt a gung-ho approach, but it does suggest that there would be nothing wrong in us treating it like an away game. If that means 4-5-1 (or some version of), being patient, so be it. The priority is to get something from the game, with a win a (very welcome) bonus. I’m not saying I think we should adopt that approach (Sir Chris and his team have today forgotten more about football than I will ever know and need no prompting), but it has to be a possibility.
There will be an extra bum on a seat on Saturday as my French partner Suzanne will be in attendance. She would of course prefer a goal-fest, but as her record for the season to date isn’t impressive (seen two, lost two) she will learn to embrace the beauty of victory of any kind, even just a point. A fellow Addick brought a work colleague to the Millwall game and he offered some pre-match reassurance in that he was getting around to all the London venues and hadn’t seen a home team lose. He has now.
On matters French, I’m sorry to report that the promotion push by my adopted team Lyon Duchere has stuttered of late. They did manage a decent 1-1- draw away at promotion rivals Moulins last time out, but with this preceded by a 0-1 home defeat to midtable Yzeure it amounts to three draws and two losses in the last five games. They have slipped to fourth in the table (with only one promotion spot available), pretty much on a par with Strasbourg and Moulins and still in touch with league-leaders Grenoble (3 points behind with a game in hand). But that still leaves Mulhouse, who are two points behind Grenoble with three games in hand (which in this league means they would go top even if they lost all three) and are one point above Duchere having played two games less. With 10 games left for Duchere and 12 for Mulhouse, it looks like the top spot is there for the taking for the latter. But who knows? Mulhouse have also lost two of their last five, as have Grenoble. Stranger things have happened, just ask Leicester and Cardiff.