By Mike Harrison
With the twin last minute blows of a Burton winner from Matt Paterson and Sam Togwell snatching an added time equaliser for Chesterfield against City on Saturday, the four-point swing effectively rules City out of that final automatic promotion spot of 3rd place.
Or does it?
City would have to win all three remaining games to finish on 74 points and, by virtue of those three victories, the Bantams’ already superior goal difference would be enhanced even further. So let’s for a minute suppose that we do.
By beating Burton on Saturday, City would have to hope that they the Brewers are also defeated at home the following Saturday by champions elect Gillingham, but just a draw would suffice to see them finish on 74 points. The Burton v Gillingham game is one where we need the right result. A win for the Brewers would see them on 76 points, even after a defeat by City the preceding week.
Currently in 4th place are Cheltenham Town who, like Burton, have two tough games remaining. On Saturday the Robins visit Exeter City and, with the Grecians still harbouring slim hopes of finishing 7th, a win for the home side and a defeat at the hands of City on the last day of the season sees Cheltenham finish on 71 points. If, however, Cheltenham win at Exeter, they would have 74 points, but then a loss to City on the final day and they finish below the Bantams on goal difference. So there is no real need for Exeter to do City a favour, just as long as City go to Whaddon Road and win on April 27.
Rotherham United currently sit in 5th place and, following Northampton’s surprise home defeat to York City on Saturday, they are now best placed for automatic promotion from the teams which have three games left to play. Or are they? Naturally City have to beat them at Valley Parade on Tuesday. The Millers then travel to a resurgent Plymouth Argyle, who are desperate for the points themselves to avoid relegation. So if Rotherham get a draw at Home Park, even if they beat Aldershot Town at home on the last day, to probably condemn the Hampshire side to the Blue Square Conference, the Millers finish on 74 points, below City on goal difference.
It all seems to be falling apart for Aidy Boothroyd’s Northampton Town. Before Saturday I had them favourites to secure 3rd place. But following three consecutive defeats to Cheltenham, City and York and with no goals scored, they will need to regain the form they had which took them up to 3rd place last month. They play Wycombe away on Tuesday and have the dubious pleasure of having the same referee whose shambolic interpretation of City’s game at Chesterfield saw the City’s fans seething.
If Mr Brendan Malone favours the home side again, then the Cobblers could well return from Adams Park pointless. But if they win, then their next game is away at Port Vale who are looking to secure promotion. This is one that City need the home side to win, sending Northampton back to Sixfields pointless.
So then, even if the Cobblers win at home to Barnet on the last day, then they will finish on 71 points. But let’s say they beat Wycombe but still lose to Port Vale: they finish on 74 points and finish below City on goal difference.
As mentioned earlier, nothing less than three victories against Rotherham, Burton and Cheltenham will be good enough for City to overtake current 3rd placed Burton Albion. But if nine points can be secured, then 74 points and automatic promotion can be ours.
Here is how the final table could look from 3rd place to 7th
3 – Bradford City – 74 points – GD +15
4 – Rotherham United – 74 points – GD +11
5 – Northampton Town – 74 points – GD +8
6 – Cheltenham Town – 74 points – GD +6
7 – Burton Albion – 74 points – GD +6
In conclusion, for the amazing table to actually be a reality I calculate that only six vital games need to go City’s way. Three of those games are in our own hands as we must win all of ours. The other three games that we need clubs to do City a favour in are Port Vale must beat Northampton on Saturday, Plymouth must not lose to Rotherham on the same day and Gillingham must not lose to Burton on the final day.
What an exciting end to the season this is going to be. And even if City don’t manage to win all three games, because as we have seen in recent weeks, we might be unlucky to be given say Darren Deadman to referee the Cheltenham away game, then we can surely go into the play offs as favourites. But having just read the above, do you still believe City can win automatic promotion?
A version of this article will appear in The City Gent which goes to the printers on Tuesday morning and will be on sale at Valley Parade for the Burton home game and also at Whaddon Road for what will hopefully be a promotion party!
The run in:
Burton Albion (3rd)
Goal Diff +6
20/04/13: Bradford City – Away
27/04/13: Gillingham – Home
Cheltenham Town (4th)
Goal Diff – +6
20/04/13: Exeter City – Away
27/04/13: Bradford City – Home
Rotherham United (5th)
Goal Diff +10
16/04/13: Bradford City – Away
20/04/13: Plymouth Argyle – Away
27/04/13: Aldershot Town – Home
Northampton Town (6th)
Goal Diff +7
16/04/13: Wycombe Wanderers – Away
20/04/13: Port Vale – Away
27/04/13: Barnet – Home
Bradford City (7th)
Goal Diff +12
16/04/13: Rotherham United – Home
20/04/13: Burton Albion – Home
27/04/13: Cheltenham Town – Away
Exeter City (8th)
Goal Diff +6
20/04/13: Cheltenham Town – Home
27/04/13: Chesterfield – Away
Goal Diff +11
16/04/13: Plymouth Argyle – Home
20/04/13: Fleetwood Town – Away
27/04/13: Exeter City – Home