|Posted by Ben Barrett on March 3, 2013 at 6:50 PM|
The Final Countdown.
It’s officially time to admit it. Yeovil Town are in a promotion chase. Others may have come to that conclusion long ago, but I haven’t let myself believe it until now.
So, with the help of Colin Redman, a fellow Northern Glover who has put together a handy little Excel spread sheet, it’s time to look ahead.
Firstly, a look at the League Table.
So you’ll probably all agree that the plays off positions are tighter than the average European government budget.
Five points is all that separates first and sixth and then just two more points bring in 7th place Bournemouth.
One thing worth noting is that for the first time in a while, the games-in-hand are pretty much as close as they have been, aside from Brentford who have two games to catch up on; everyone sits on 35 or 36 games.
Brentford probably count themselves as front runners for the title now, a win and a draw in those two outstanding fixtures could see them go top, but Doncaster would probably claim that you’d rather have the points on the board than be the ones chasing.
It’s not just the column on the far right that needs some attention, but the one next to it too.
Goal difference may well play a part inthe season’s final standings as, except for Swindon, everyone is within touching distance of one another. Yeovil on +14 GD are actually in the weakest position here, but that could all change as those around us take points off one another and goals exchange hands willy nilly.
So, onto the run in and for the sake of ease, Colin has produced the spread sheet for just the top seven sides.
It should be noted that Walsall’s recent run of form isn’t showing any signs of stopping and so ruling them out would be silly with many points still to be played for.
Coventry, in ninth, are now seven points off of Tranmere in 6th and have played 36 games, unlike any of the top five.
Here are the final fixtures for those in the hunt for the Championship.
Lots of pretty colours and lots to get heads around.
What I am looking for are two different types of 'six-pointer'.
There are 'six-pointers' against one of the other top seven sides and those against sides in the relegation dog fight.
For the purposes of this, those fighting relegation are; Colchester, Scunthorpe, Oldham, Bury, Hartlepool and Portsmouth.
Those sides at the bottom, much like Yeovil did 12 months ago, will be making their ‘now-or-never’ moves sooner rather than later.
Starting with the side at the top of the graphic and Swindon play four sides in the top six before the season’s end – all of them away from home. Brentford, Yeovil, Doncaster and Sheffield United are all tapped into the Swindon coach’s sat nav.
Add to that two games against teams in the relegation fight; Scunthorpe on the final day and Oldham. That only leaves five games against those in the middle somewhere, one of those is against Walsall.
That’s tough, a really hard run in if the form book is anything to go by.
Onto Bournemouth and well they have gone from top to seventh in no time at all, another defeat yesterday vs Orient shows everyone that taking anything for granted is a very bad idea.
It’s tough for the Cherries too, they have Doncaster to come and a trip to Tranmere on the final day, whilst they go on a run of four games vs relegation candidates.
Six more six-pointers for Eddie Howe’s men.
League leaders Doncaster might have the toughest of the lot, trips to Bournemouth and Brentford bookend more tough fixtures against Portsmouth, Scunthorpe, Swindon and Tranmere.
Two other away days to MK Dons and Coventry might not count as six pointers for this little piece, but they’re hardly the kindest.
Sheffield United currently occupy the second automatic spot, they don’t play another six-pointer until March 23rd vs Brentford and that’s a home game.
Tranmere, Swindon and Scunthorpe are also to come for the Blades and they have possibly the kindest final day fixture a home game against Preston who may well be on their holidays by that time.
This looks like a nicer than average run of games, certainly not easy but there are only four six pointers, where others have to play six.
I’ll skip Yeovil and move onto Tranmere who sit the right side of the play-off line and they too don’t have the nicest of times ahead.
Four home six pointers versus; Oldham, Sheffield United, Hartlepool and Bournemouth and two more on the road down at Portsmouth and at local rivals Doncaster. Again trips to both Walsall and Milton Keynes in the near future also stand out as two of the tougher fixtures agains the so called 'middle men'.
Brentford have the most congested fixture list, only two free dates for them between now and the end of the season. Seven of the Bees final 12 aren’t 'six-pointers' but only two of those seven are at home.
Of their other five ‘six-pointers’ three are at home, including a potential vital final day fixture vs Doncaster.
Two tricky trips to Hartlepool and Sheffield United could prove pivotal for Uwe Rosler’s men.
So where does all that leave Yeovil?
We’ll start with the final day and it’s both away and at relegation scrapper in Bury.
But it’s worth noting that there are only two other ‘six-pointers’ in there; Swindon at home and Oldham away.
That’s fewer than any of the others in the fight for thetop, to make up for this, we have to travel all the way to both Hartlepool and Carlisle – two epic trips that can wipe out training plans and often see fewer Yeovil fans make the trip.
Of the five remaining home games, only one is a ‘six-pointer’– the live SKY game vs Swindon. None of the others count, despite some tricky looking games including a visit from Walsall.
Is everyone suitably confused? Not just me then.
The truth is, no-one knows what the heck is going to happen, it’s quite conceiveable that Doncaster win their six pointers, but lost all their other fixtures and end up in 6th. It’s not beyond the realms of thought that a new manager at Swindon could see them go unbeaten and end up going up automatically.
The closer we get to the end will see some of the relegation scrappers drop off, or even get out of trouble and switch off.
Brentford’s two games in hand; away at Stevenage and Crewe should result in six points, potentially sending them top.
Here’s my guess.
Brentford will win the league, Sheffield United will go up with them and the final positions will all be up for grabs until the final day.
Whoever finishes in seventh will feel as sick as a pig, but seven doesn’t go into six. Someone will miss out; if Walsall get involved two sides will miss out.
Strap yourselves in.