Given that the Haringey Huskies are also involved in that tight four-way race for the last two playoff spots, it’s probably safe to say that Bristol’s game on Saturday was a four pointer. Losing it was made all the more painful given Slough’s brilliant 4-1 win over Peterborough that same night.
As a result, Bristol now find themselves in 10th place and last in the four-way fight. But, it’s not necessarily as bad as the following league table (courtesy of 482 Days) suggests.
There are three keys components left in the playoff equation.
The first is the two games left that involve two of the four teams; Haringey v Slough this Saturday and Haringey v Cardiff at the start of April.
As a result of those four games, it is not possible for any of the three teams above Bristol to win all their remaining games. Bristol, on the other hand, have played their last four-pointer of the season.
However, the flip side is that it is also not possible for all three teams above Bristol to finish the season on their current points tally. If the only games those three teams won were those two games, Bristol would need 19 points to guarantee a playoff spot.
That brings in the next component, the number of games left to play. Since our four week break right at the start of the season, Bristol have been in catch up mode. That remains the case, with only Bracknell having played fewer games. More importantly, Bristol have three more games than either Slough or Haringey from which to qualify for the playoffs. So, to get those 19 points, Bristol has seven opportunities to get two wins.
Which brings us to the final component; Swindon.
Realistically, the teams above Bristol are going to win more games than just those two key ones. While the league has largely been in two halves this season, Slough’s win over Peterborough shows that big wins are still possible.
But, perhaps more significant is that Swindon have four games left against these four teams; two against Cardiff and one each against Slough and Bristol.
Swindon have been a bit of an enigma this season. Some horrible losses, including a 9-1 defeat to Bristol just a couple of weeks ago, have seen them involved in a two-way dog fight with Lee Valley to avoid finishing in last place. But, there have been some amazing results, too, even if they didn’t improve Swindon’s win column. A 5-4 loss to Solent is the closest that anyone has pushed Solent since their last defeat way back in October. As recently as yesterday, Oxford needed an empty netter to get an 8-6 home win against Swindon.
Nobody can expect a win against Swindon. So, in many ways, the fate of the last two playoff spots could come down to which teams Swindon take points off.
So, back to that original question; what do Bristol need to do to make the playoffs?
Dependent upon how those four-point games go, it may be that 21 points is enough to make the post-season. 23 points is perhaps a safer target, however. Particularly given that Bristol can’t win a head-to-head against either of the two teams currently sitting in the last two playoff spots.
Regardless, it’s clear that this fight isn’t over, yet.