It’s that time isn’t it? We all spend inordinate amounts of time looking at league tables working out all manner of permutations and combinations of results. From my own fiddlings with the figures, I still think we’re on course for a playoff finish and not much more, although there are a few interesting scenarios that could take place. Bristol are of course four points ahead of us, they have +2 goal difference, as things stand we have scored two more goals than them.
Now there are two factors at play that determine our finishing position – the first thing is in our control, because it is our results. We need three wins, I feel, to stand any chance at all. The second factor is the dubious one (well, us getting three wins is quite dubious, but anyway!) – and that is that we need Bristol to drop points in two games out of the remaining three. Whilst they undoubtedly have a trickier run in than us, I think that might be a bit too much for us to ask.
I don’t see why we can’t get a win against Bournemouth on saturday, against Orient away and indeed against Crewe at home. If the players give it large, and if we play to our potential, then it should be doable. Of course, I have said as much on plenty of occasions when it turns out our players didn’t do that, and we end up losing or drawing – but let’s be positive for a moment, and work on the assumption that we win each of our remaining games.
Bristol’s next game is a toughie – they have a long trip to in-form Carlisle, who are on a rather impressive run of five straight wins in the league. So it is not remotely beyond the realms of possibility that they will drop points at the weekend. Next up they face Millwall away – a shorter trip, but again, they face a team on a good run of form, four games unbeaten including a win against our good selves. Their final game is against relegated Rotherham at Ashton Gate – I find it hard to imagine any upsets happening there.
So effectively, if Bristol lose against either Carlisle or Millwall, and draw the other – whilst we win all our games – we’re up. Two draws and and a win, and it becomes interesting, because we would be equal on points. So it would come down to goal difference in the first instance – currently Bristol have +2 on us, however if they draw two and we win two, we will be at least equal on goal difference – depending on how many we win by. So there’s the possibility that we could end up very close indeed. Imagine they drew both games, we won both of ours by 1-0, it would make goal difference equal. Now imagine they draw both games 2-2 and we win both games 1-0, we would be equal on goal difference, and on goals scored!
In that scenario it would all come down to the last day of the season – if we matched each other’s result in terms of scoreline, we’d get second by virtue of beating them at the City Ground thanks to Nicky Southall’s freekick (thanks to the kind poster on LTLF who actually worked out much of this!), as points, goal difference and goals scored would all be equal. Of course, I don’t for a minute expect that to happen – but what an amusing way to get promotion if it did!
The bottom line is, if we don’t win against Bournemouth on saturday I think we can forget it – and if we do win, and Bristol beat Carlisle, then I also think it unlikely we’ll catch them. The most important thing for us is our results – to stand any chance of automatic promotion we need three wins, and even if we do that – if Bristol manage to win two of their games, it still won’t be enough anyway, but we will still enter the playoffs on a very positive run of results – which is important.
So to conclude, there is no conclusion – rather obviously we need to win our games, and hope that Carlisle, Millwall or – inconceivably – Rotherham can do us some big favours along the way to enable us to sneak into second. It’s certainly not impossible, I still maintain it’s unlikely and think Bristol will just do enough to hold onto the second automatic spot – but certainly, as Smoulders keeps saying, it is proving to be an exciting climax to the season. It’d still rather be where Scunthorpe are, though, and I haven’t even considered the rise of Blackpool up the table – argh!
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