Hopefully you’re coming to this post having seen part one of this lengthy guide to whether Coventry City can actually make the play offs? If you haven’t read that yet, you may like to do so.
If you’ve already seen it, then welcome back. Let’s look at some numbers.
Play-off points threshold
This is the most difficult aspect to predict, and yet it’s the one that we’re all desperate to know. Just how many points will get you into the top 6?
Truth is, it fluctuates so much year on year, and a lot depends on just how many really good teams are at the top, and how many Hartlepools are hanging around at the bottom giving out freebies every month. There are a finite number of points available, but even so, no equation is going to be able to identify how these can potentially be shared.
So instead, all we can do is look back in time and get a feel for the sort of totals that managed it in the past..
These are the points totals for 6th placed in League One/Division Two over the past 12 years. It shows the range quite clearly, and one thing in particular- it’s very likely to be a total in the 70s.
So firstly, is that a realistic target given our form and momentum? Let’s look at two relative extremes:
- If we were to win all 16 of our games between now and the end of the season, that would leave us on 92 points. That’s 48 more points, and has automatic promotion written all over it in a giant felt tip. But don’t worry too much – we ain’t getting that.
- Conversely, think back to our worst form at the start of the year. Let’s say something catastrophic happens and we repeat the opening 16 games of the season. That means picking up another 17 points, meaning we’d end up with a 61 point final total. That’s at least 10 points off the lowest conceivable requirement for the top 6.
Given how things have gone for us so far, I think it’s fair to assume we’re not going to hit either of those extremes. However, it does make it clear just how many more points are up for grabs.
Those opening 16 games were abysmal, but thankfully we’re not the same team anymore. Can you really see us losing 5 in a row? In that, our worst 16 game period of the season, we picked up 4 wins. The play was awful, we were awful, and everything that could go wrong, seemed to. But we still picked up 17 points when we were at our absolute worst.
I see no reason why under Robins we shouldn’t be able to at least double the amount of wins we achieved then. An extra 12 points on top of our more despicable form? That would place us on 73 points, and suddenly a little closer..
Precedent and history
Football fans are usually so keen to dismiss their chances based on historic form and notoriously difficult matches, so let’s follow suit. What do the history books say about the requirements for making the play-offs in League One?
Here I’ve chucked all the relevant details into a chart to get a feel for things. It expands upon the earlier one, but it’s quite interesting to note how tight the table between 6th and 2nd can get.
I’m sure there’s a pattern with the 1st and 2nd place totals to be found, but I’m not seeing it. What I do see though are some handy averages to help us in our guesswork..
- 75 is the average number of points required to make 6th place over the last 12 years.
- However, the lowest figure of 71 is also the most common, having been achieved by 6th place on 3 occasions. 73, 75 and 76 have all be done twice.
- The median/middle figure of all those is again, 75.
Of course there was also one season when 81 was achieved, which would require a supreme run of form by anyone’s standards.
Let’s be fair – if we end up with 60 something, we’ll know we don’t deserve promotion because that constitutes a pretty average total, and finish to the season. If we end up in the 70s and don’t make it, we’ll certainly feel pretty unlucky, but given our start, should probably feel pretty chuffed with the turnaround.
If we somehow end up in the 80s and still don’t make them, well, you’ll probably find me giving up on football all together and starting again on petanque.
Things are starting to feel a little clearer in terms of requirements, but to figure out the likelihood of our potential challenge, and just how futile it might eventually all be, I couldn’t help spending a bit of time looking over other teams who’ve had a similar points total to us (between 42-46 to give a bit of tolerance) after the 30 games mark.
Turns out, there were loads. I had to give up after trawling back just 7 seasons because I was starting to see a number 30 when I blinked. The majority had also been in the same position as we find ourselves currently – outside of the play-offs and looking upwards.
Of the 25 instances or so I’d found in that period, I was able to whittle down those seasons to pick out 3 teams who’d actually then gone on to reach the play-offs. These guys are our benchmarks.
|MK Dons 10/11
|Points after 30 games
|Position after 30 games
|Points after 46 games
|Position after 46 games
*After points deduction
They all have their own story to tell, but essentially what you can see here is a minimum of 9 wins out of their final 16 games was required to see them over the line.
MK Dons 2010/11
MK Dons actually had a point more than we do at this interval, and ended up with 77 points after finishing the season with 10 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses.
During this final stretch, it’s the losses column that intrigues me the most. With the talk already of not being able to afford many more defeats, the idea of being allowed 4 whole defeats strikes me as surprisingly forgiving. If you look back over our last 16 games, we talk about being inconsistent – which is a sentiment I back in many respects – but in the scheme of what is actually required, we’ve still only lost 3 in that period. That’s bloody good.
I guess it’s the nature of this period – not going on a run of more than two league wins in a row before coming unstuck with a daft draw or defeat; this is our biggest disappointment, as it makes it harder to fully commit to the idea that we’re fully capable. I’d love to be at point where I can be reasonable about dropped points because we’d won a whole host of games in a row, but we’ve not managed that yet.
But maybe because we’re so unfamiliar with being at this end of the table, we’ve got an idealistic view of what play-off form actually is, and are not able to fully appreciate quite how on-track we actually are? Something to think about.
In the post-Eastwood era, Southend were able to make an impressive charge towards the play-offs in the final few months of the season, having found themselves on 44 points after 30 games.
They won 9 out of their last 16, but in contrast to MK Dons, they only lost 2 during that last stretch. This resilience left them in 6th place, with a tally of 76 points.
The very same season, Leeds Utd had suffered a points deduction and had to spend the majority of the early part of the campaign clambering up the table. It’s very hard to compare this too closely, because when it came down to it they were a team that was bound for automatics if they’d not had the penalty imposed on them.
But even so, they completed the season in the exact fashion Southend did and made it to the play-offs with 76 points too.
So after all this, are we convinced that our dream of promotion this season is still very much alive? That wasn’t necessarily the aim when I set out writing, but the more I stared at the figures, the more I recognised just what’s possible if we apply ourselves even vaguely well.
I don’t believe in getting ahead of ourselves. We need to have an aim and go for it. History tells us that we’re looking at another 9 or 10 wins to give ourselves a solid chance of a top 6 finish.
Mind you, with the emphatic runs of form shown by those already occupying the promotion concerning spots, we have to recognise that this season may actually end up being a 75+ points kind of year.
Either way, since the half-way point of the season (7 games ago) our record since has seen us take 13 league points. That’s 4 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses. Looking back over the teams we’ve played and the performances, it’s actually felt like an up-and-down time for us. But will this kind of form really see us over the line?
Let’s look at another scenario:
If we repeated that recent form twice over (13 points x 2), this would leave us with 26 points in the next 14 games. Also know as 70 points going into the final two games of the season against Leyton Orient and Notts County.
70 points with two games to go? Given how things started, wou’d take it, wouldn’t you?
Not convinced of its feasibility? Let’s look at it another way.
At the half-way point of the season we’d accumulated 31 points, which considering we’d spent the first two months losing every single game, was a fairly useful tally. In my mind, the aim for the second half is to actually improve on that quite significantly. If 31 points is something that constitutes a bad start to a campaign, what does “good” look like?
3, 4, 5 more wins than we managed in the first half of the season? It’s quite possible.
I’ve never been one to care about jumping the gun. Writing this post will strike many as being presumptuous, but for me it provides the opportunity to recognise the actualities of our situation.
We all know football lends itself to short, snap judgements about various situations, and part of the fun and drama comes from the tremendous hyperbole used when describing the magnitude of most games. I do recognise the value of placing pressure on other teams whenever that opportunity presents itself. But at the same time, I don’t think we need to overly concern ourselves with games in hand just yet, especially when we still have 16 more of our own games left to play.
Granted, we’re not in a position where we can bumble our way into the play-offs – our awful start made sure of that. So it’s essential we maintain the level of solid and concerted form that we have been showing over the last couple of months.
And if that evolves into a situation where we actually start winning more than one or two games in a row – well, we can all do what Mr Robins has been encouraging us to do so far during his time here – we can start to dream.