The Mathematics of Survival

I’m sure you don’t need me to convince you that tomorrow’s game is massive. However, the way the maths stacks up, it could be pivotal to the rest of our season.

Chesterfield are our reference point in the table at the moment. Our first priority has to be to pull away from the threat of relegation, and currently that means putting distance between us and them.

As things stand, we’re five points clear of The Spireites, who occupy the top relegation position. Five points is a big gap in a relegation scrap for obvious reasons. Teams are down the wrong end of the table because they struggle to achieve positive results. Therefore, it ought to take them a while to claw back a gap once it opens.

Take a look at Chesterfield’s position. They’ve won 34 points from 33 games. That’s essentially one point per match. If they maintain that form, they won’t have gained another five points until March 7th, by which point there will only be eight games left to save themselves. Any points we pick up in that period pushes back the date where they can catch us.

That’s why tomorrow’s game is massive. If we lose, that scenario dramatically changes: they close the gap to two points, and by next weekend they could overtake us.

On the other hand, if we win, we’ll have opened up an eight-point gap which could only be overturned if our form dramatically deteriorates and theirs massively improves. A draw would be fine, maintaining the status quo and keeping them at arm’s length.

Should we avoid defeat, our home form is another factor in our favour. We’re essentially averaging one and a half points per home game, which is the same as winning one game and then losing the next throughout the season. We’ve got six home games left this season: three against teams challenging for the play-offs and three against sides around us in the table. If we maintain our home form and gain another nine points from those games, surely we’re safe?

There is another factor to throw into the equation, and it’s one which could considerably improve our hopes of avoiding a relegation battle. I understand the FA will make a decision this month on where a reformed Bury will be placed in the pyramid next season, and that will affect the bottom of the National League.

It seems fairly likely that they will be put into a level below ours, and if that happens there will be one fewer relegation spot at the foot of our table and only three teams would go down.

It would also mean that our reference point would change from Chesterfield, who would be safe in the current table, to AFC Fylde. They’re a full eight points behind us – and we’d be out of sight if we hadn’t contrived to let them do the double over us. A fifth of the points they’ve won all season have come at our expense!

All in all, the maths of the table, combined with our improved performance, offer reasons for optimism. However, we need to maintain that form tomorrow to keep it that way.

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