The clatter of Pompey promotion numbers being crunched

Pompey boss Paul Cook believes the Blues are now in a mini league of League Two teams fighting for promotion   Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey boss Paul Cook believes the Blues are now in a mini league of League Two teams fighting for promotion Picture: Joe Pepler

It’s a mini-league shootout to decide promotion.

Quite how mini that league actually is and who’s at the heart of the battle to go up is increasingly up for debate.

Paul Cook this week used the analogy of a clipped, intense round-robin to sort out who’s getting out of terrain which feels increasingly godforsaken in footballing terms.

The Pompey boss threw out the suggestion it went as deep as Blackpool. That was before the latest round of games, as this division of inconsistency underlined it’s still too early to be making any definitive conclusions on the season’s outcome.

But then Cook’s fluid thinking on the subject is entirely in keeping with how League Two is shaping up.

Last month he thought 11 wins would do it. This week it flitted from 11 victories to 80 points and anything over. And that was in the same conversation.

Just a fortnight ago, in his praise of their efforts, the Pompey boss appeared to be ready to let Doncaster and perhaps even Plymouth head into the fourth-tier sunset.

In the space of two press conferences this week, however, he’s repeatedly intimated in a roundabout way both are capable of suffering the yips.

Let’s face it, at this time of the season, it’s what we do. What’s the table looking like? How many points to go up? How many wins are needed?

And for all the chat of focusing on the games ahead, the players and staff will be doing exactly the same.

The phones would’ve been out in the home dressing room on Tuesday night looking at a brighter League Two landscape after a couple of successes.

So, what’s it going to take? And, more pertinently, have Pompey got the minerals to achieve it?

Perhaps some number crunching is necessary at this juncture.

Back-to-back league wins have lifted Pompey to fifth in the League Two table on 51 points.

Last season, Accrington missed out on goal difference to Bristol Rovers having picked up 85 points.

That represents a near high over the past 20 years, however, with the swing between 78 points (Lincoln 1997-98) and 88 points (Hereford 2007-08).

Taking a mean total over the same period makes 81 the threshold to go up.

Cook’s public sentiment on the subject is anything north of 80 points represents a successful campaign.

One or two others in the Pompey camp privately believe it’ll be nearer 84. This observer’s in agreement.

So 33 points from 16 games is the challenge to get the celebrations started on May 6.

That’s pretty much bang on two points per game over the season’s run-in (2.06).

Through a tumultuous first 30 matches, Cook’s side have averaged 1.7 points per game. And that’s with Tuesday being the first time since November consecutive league wins have arrived.

So an improvement is needed, but, with the average boosted by the recent successes, not an insurmountable upturn in fortunes.

Yet, we were saying the same thing this time last term, and there will be those who point out it’s form Pompey have yet to produce under Cook.

Perhaps a bigger and unquantifiable factor in the debate is what your eyes tell you.

Do Pompey look like going on the kind of run which is going to conclude with automatic promotion?

Notts County (2009-10) Bury (2014-15), and Bristol Rovers last season are just a few of the many outfits who will testify to what a powerful cocktail momentum and confidence can be around this time.

The big question now really is, does the whirlwind which can lift a team into the top three at this time of season look like descending on PO4?