Hope everyone else has got over the two points wasted against Wimbledon; can’t say I have, given how important they could prove. With the others having played a game or two since, and ahead of the potentially crucial next game at Doncaster, there’s the opportunity to update where we are projected to finish on points-per-game basis and what might be required to nick a play-off place.
With nine games left for us we can forget about the top three. Hull, Peterborough and Sunderland have established a clear gap from the rest and are on course to rack up around 85 points for the full season (for the record PPG currently points to Hull being the team to miss out, but it’s very close). One of the three might fall away, but if anything it’s more likely that the close race between the three will end up going to the wire and that will mean a massive incentive (and pressure) on these three to win every game. The fact that we still have to play these three is not to our advantage as even if we beat them we are not going to catch them. Just means that to achieve our objective we will need to get good results against the teams currently going for automatic promotion.
PPG currently points to Lincoln finishing fourth, on 77 points. We do of course play them too. At the moment Blackpool, Doncaster and Portsmouth are the favourites to take the next three places, each on course for 74/75 points, with one of the three missing out (marginally that’s Portsmouth right now). Then there’s a gap to Ipswich, on a projected 70 points, then just behind us and Oxford on 69/70. Accrington and Fleetwood have fallen away and, although Gillingham might go above us in the league today, they would remain below us on a PPG basis (and quite frankly if we end up below Gillingham we will not be in the top six).
Now of course everything will change with each game, but it’s indicative that while there are three competing for the top two spots there are also three grouped together for the final two play-off places. They too will be going toe-to-toe to the end and they, plus Ipswich, are the teams we really want to be playing (and beating) now, not the top three. We do still play Doncaster, Lincoln and Ipswich. They are games we quite probably simply have to win if we are to close the current gap.
It still looks as though the target to make a play-off place is 75 points or thereabouts. For us that would mean 19 points in 9 games, including six against teams above us. So, win the three ‘6-pointers’ (Doncaster, Lincoln and Ipswich), win the three against lower opposition (Plymouth, Crewe and Accrington), and look to get results against the top three. It is a very tough task now (and an impartial observer would probably point to the four points we dropped recently - with the last-gasp penalty against Oxford and the failure to put away Wimbledon when we had the beating of them – as crucial).
Of course we take it one game at a time, can’t do anything else, and of course the picture will change. We hope that Adkins will be working some magic on the training ground and firming up his thoughts on team selection and formation as we do have to play better than of late. That may sound harsh as in March we’re unbeaten in six with three wins and three draws. We managed that against moderate opposition, we now have to replicate the results against better teams. That said, if we continue with the ‘win, draw, win, draw’ sequence to the end of the season we would end up with exactly 75 points. Simples.