With a win in midweek, Reading have moved eight points clear of the relegation zone and we’ve taken a look into the bottom of the Championship, with odds from Betfair throughout.
The relegation trapdoor
Moving the needle in the bottom six of any division is very different to up at the top. Generally speaking if you’re scoring above one point per game throughout a Championship season you’ll be competitive, it’s those that slip under that have a big problem. Reading have certainly moved the needle under Paul Ince and possibly slammed the door shut on the three below them in the drop zone.
By way of illustration the points per game for the bottom four, taking into account two of our teams have had points deductions, is as follows. Reading are the right side of the one point per game with 1.08, Derby are well above it at 1.23 but their 21 point deduction significantly takes the edge off that. Barnsley’s 0.74 and Peterborough’s 0.68 put them well below the one point per game standard and in a season without points deductions these totals would see them well adrift at the bottom. Slow going I think we’d all agree.
Reading have scored eight points in their last four games, the fabled two points per game that will on average win you the Championship title. It’s only a short run but at the bottom these runs make a huge difference, especially when you compare that period to their rivals. In their past four games Peterborough and Derby scored four points and Barnsley scored five. This all underlines just how important that 1-1 draw between Barnsley and Reading was in terms of the Royals not losing the game. Had Barnsley won that game we might be having a very different conversation now.
Can Reading be caught?
Prior to their four game splurge, Reading’s points per game across the season was 0.97 and in the final 12 games under Veljko Paunovic it dropped to 0.5. In summary, Reading’s quick splurge represents an increase of over double on their seasonal total and quadruple that of their last quarter of a season of their outgoing manager. If Reading were now to return to their 0.97 points per game for the remainder of the season they would finish up with 42.83 points. For the purposes of some projections I’ll use 43 points as a survival total for the current bottom three.
Barnsley are in closest contact to Reading and have a game in hand but the Tykes would need to hit 14 points in their last 7 to reach 43. You guessed it bang on two points per game and a huge hike on their seasonal total of 0.74. To be perfectly fair to Barnsley their recent improvement has seen them score 15 points in their last ten games at a total of 1.5 points per game. If we roll out that number for the rest of their games Barnsley would finish on 40.5 meaning just one more Reading win would only need a win and a draw from their remaining six games.
Derby sit second bottom on 28 points nine short of Reading but unlike Barnsley do not have the luxury of a game in hand. With six games remaining the Rams would need 15 points to reach 43, that would take five wins and an improbable 2.5 points per game. Derby’s remaining games split 50/50 home and away, unfortunately their geographical points output is nothing like as straightforward. 37 points at home and only 12 away means Derby have scored 75.5% of their points this season at Pride Park.
Too little too late
Peterborough have had their own pick up of sorts under new boss Grant McCann but it’s all very much too little too late. Posh have picked up six points in the past six games to make the one point per game standard, with three of those points scoring games against promotion challengers Bournemouth, QPR and Luton. Peterborough would need 16 points from their last six to reach our projected 43 point total, in other words 2.66 points per game or an improbable five wins and a draw.
It looks like Reading have closed the trap door on the current bottom three in the Championship. Barnsley’s game in hand doesn’t come until the final week of April and for them to get close would require some kind of losing streak through Easter for Reading. I’ll insert the usual ‘stranger things have happened’ and ‘never say never’ caveats when it comes to the Championship but certainty on this one doesn’t feel too far away.
Odds correct at the time of publication. 18+ Please Gamble Responsibly. Visit begambleaware.org