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After the announcement of the pre-season friendlies in Germany, which Nick Draper will no doubt be rolling his eyes at, who else is better to ask about how to get around, where to go, and what to see in Germany, than our resident German, Mark Hendrikx? Well, Nena for one. But she wasn’t available. Believe us: we tried. And Boris Becker told us in no uncertain terms to shove it. There are no other famous Germans. So we’re stuck with Hendrikx.

So – it has been announced. Two PSFs in Germany. Kaiserslautern and Kickers Offenbach. Two mouth-watering ties, to be fair.

It is a great shame that Kaiserslautern will not be playing their match at their home stadium, the Fritz-Walter-Stadion, as it is a 49,780 capacity stadium and even though 1.FCK are in the third division in Germany, they still manage to average around 23,000 per home game. Instead, the Official Site told us that the match would be played at the “Weingarten Arena”. This is not to be confused with the Weingarten Arena near Ravensburg in South Germany. This match will be played at SV Weingarten and kick-off is at 7pm CET on Friday, 12 July.

The second match is against Kickers Offenbach. This will be a more tasty atmosphere due to the Sparda-Bank-Hessen-Stadion. A 20,500 capacity stadium, which coincidentally hosts the German National Rugby team’s home matches, averages around 8,500 a home game. Offenbach is directly next to Frankfurt am Main (not to be confused with Frankfurt an der Oder where one Benfica fan accidentally travelled to) and kick-off will be on Saturday 13 July at 3pm CET.

So, folks… if you’ve gotten this far, how about I make a few suggestions of how best to travel?

If you are contemplating attending both matches (Nick will deem you crazy), you have one of two options. Fly into Stüttgart, as it is slightly less of a distance to Weingarten than Frankfurt, and fly back to the UK from Frankfurt. Or you can fly into Frankfurt, take a train down to Weingarten and then fly back from Frankfurt. Please beware and do not book flights to Frankfurt Hahn. This airport is in the arse-end of nowhere. Fly directly to FRA (airport code).

So – if you are going to travel by train from Frankfurt or Stüttgart to Weingarten book directly on the German Railway website.

Before you go into details looking at Weingarten – bear in mind you will probably need to get a taxi from Lingenfeld station to the stadium. This will set you back around €15 each way.

Let’s take Frankfurt to Weingarten as an example. You will need to go from Frankfurt to Lingenfeld. This should offer you an ICE train (Inter-City-Express) via Mannheim and then you’ll need to get onto a local service to Lingenfeld. I have just searched online and found a return trip from Frankfurt to Lingenfeld for €47,80. This is a very good price, considering you’ll be on an ICE train. Outbound from Frankfurt (Main) at 15:06 arriving Lingenfeld at 16:41. Return journey would be departing Lingenfeld at 21:17 arriving at Frankfurt 22:58. Or you can get the return trip departing Lingenfeld at 23:00 and arriving at Frankfurt at 00:42. Same price at €47.80 (if you book in advance only).

Nearby to the stadium is the Gaststätte Zum Schwanen (the Guesthouse by the Swans). It gets good reviews with a decent choice of beer on tap and a good menu for dinner.

If you’re planning on staying somewhere nearby to this location, I would advise to get to Mannheim and stay there. It has better transport links to Frankfurt / Offenbach for the following match.

Offenbach is a completely different kettle of fish. If you’re deciding on staying in Offenbach, then grab the S8 train from FRA airport and disembark at whichever Offenbach train station nearest to your accommodation. It’ll cost you all of €5 to get to Offenbach from FRA for a 30 minute journey. If you’re on a budget, then look at staying somewhere in Offenbach. Frankfurt is very expensive in comparison.

At this point, I think I will leave you to your devices, choosing how best to travel, what accommodation you’ll be looking for and which match(es) you will attend. Let me finish with a few little pointers about German & German etiquette.

  • Don’t be a dick or you’ll get hit.
  • At bars and restaurants it is customary to tip. Just round up to the nearest €5 or €10 depending which is closer to 10% of the total bill.
  • If you are polite, people will be polite back. But the Germans are very pragmatic and to the point. If something says it is €15, it is bloody well €15.
  • Don’t break any rules … you will get fined on the spot if caught. And the fines are heavy handed.
  • Enjoy yourselves. Don’t bring up history. Chat football with the other fans and you’ll have friends for life.
  • And finally – it is very important to remember that if you cheers someone in Germany with a glass, you look the other person directly in the eye. There is a superstition about this which I won’t explain here (you can google it).

Enjoy your trip(s). It’ll be a blast.

// Mark Hendrikx – @MarkatCIFF

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You may recognise that as Uhtred’s – Son of Uhtred – catchphrase from ‘The Last Kingdom,’ the third season of which I just happen to be watching now (think a Viking Wagstaff with his magnificent beard). It seems now prescient on the last 10 games since our last review of what history has shown us . . .

In our last article showing us how the past might show us what was going to happen, we showed that historically over the last 10 seasons, the average number of points required to avoid relegation was 49.

Looking at past results, with 10 games to go, it suggested we’d accumulate another 13 points (nine at home; four away) and finish on 46 points, below this threshold.

In reality, we got eight points at home but a massive nine points away. And that is why we are still in League One – our away form again came to our rescue.

Looking in detail at those games, the bonus of our unexpected home win against Peterborough was undone by our loss to Gillingham. However, for the other games everything went as expected: draws with Accrington and Bristol Rovers, and a win against Wycombe.

Away from home though, the win against Southend was not expected as we were meant to draw. Scunthorpe was also a given win but all of Oxford, Luton AND Bradford were expected to see us lose. So it is fair to say that drawing all those games – though not good for the nerves at the time – were ultimately the games that did get us across the line – with some help, it has to be said, from Accrington Stanley: by missing that penalty at Kinsgsmeadow, and then by thumping Plymouth 5-1.

So now we await the beginning of our fourth year in League One, with New Plough Lane, or NPL – is anyone ever now going to NOT call it that? – a year closer to being christened with League One football.

But what has happened before – say in the last five years – with teams that flirted so dangerously with relegation in the past?

Of the 21 clubs that have been in the next bottom six, 16 have been relegated. Only Gillingham, Coventry, Shrewsbury, Fleetwood, and ourselves have survived. Of those, only Gillingham have survived where they have had two consecutive seasons in this bottom six. All others have managed either to stay out of there or, if they have appeared twice, it has not been consecutive seasons.

So there is some hope there that our two consecutive seasons may not lead to a third, although Gillingham have managed to be in this position the most: 50 per cent of the time, in fact.

But it shows more than ever how a good start to next season is required to break this trend. Remaining unbeaten at the end of this season is worth psychologically a foot up for next, but we then need to start running on gas. We will see if this materialises!

// Jim Potter – @JamPot44

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So, on the back of the first home win in 2019, the simple question is: can we survive in League 1? How does our predictive, history-led analysis predict going forward? Considering how we’ve not managed to hit these results through the season, does it even give us hope, or despair?

Our last look at this analysis followed our home win against Plymouth on Boxing Day; in the league it’s been a long wait for the next one, arriving this weekend against Doncaster. That marks the 10 games to go point in the season which symmetrically counterpoints the ‘see where we are after 10 games into the season.’

Before we look to the near future, we need to see what has happened since the last update. At 24 games played, we had 21 pts (0.875 pts per game); 52% of the games had been played and we had achieved just 32% of our potential (66pts) and only 40% of our survival target (53 pts).

Now we have 33 points from 36 games (0.92 pts per game); 78% of the games have now gone and we have achieved just 50% of our potential haul and 62% of our survival target. So what lies behind these headline figures?

Well, mainly – if you had not noticed – we are pretty awful at home. At the beginning of the season we expected to get 45 of the season’s predicted 66 points at home (68%); currently we have achieved 33%. When you look at the results, expected home wins against Barnsley, Blackpool, Burton, Charlton, and Fleetwood just did not happen. In fact the Doncaster result was the only spot on prediction to occur – win and score.

Away from home the results have kept us in the game so to speak. Of the expected 21 points for the season we have already achieved 18, but even here most of the results went as expected, bar Walsall where we won, when we expected to lose (God they must hate playing us at their place!)

Click here for the full breakdown of expected and actual points.

In the last article I did say, a point per game is not guarantee of survival. However, one feature of this league this season has been how everyone seems to almost beat anyone else (except Luton and Barnsley). The fact that we were 10pts off safety, but now 10pts off the team in 13th in the league shows the compaction that has occured over the last 2 months. That gives us a bit of hope.

Reviewing the last 10 seasons in League 1, we find that the average number of points required to be 5th from bottom is 49, with a spread between 51 and 44 (2012). So actually that target of 53 appears almost generous. Add into that a change in our fortunes since NA left: at home we averaged 0.4 pts per game and away 0.88; with W&G we are up to 1.22 at home and 1.1 away (not that it seems that at home – and thanks to Secret Agent on WUP for those figures)

But given the genesis of this series of articles, what is the prediction based on history telling us?

Well for the final 10 games at home we SHOULD achieve 9 points; away from home we SHOULD get 4. If we do we will have 46 points, so will be most likely relegated! (note the pts spread above?)

But… and it’s a big but: if things go to plan. So far there has been nothing to show that we will achieve anything like our predicted results and going into the last few days, perhaps the twist to come is that we will again not hit our predicted targets: we may miss them, we may exceed them as we now have a different team mentality.

And look who and what happens in the last game …

Whatever happens in these last 10 games, we have this season been punching below our historical weight. And that will make some doom-mongers happy, but give us I suppose, an excuse to swallow and take forward as a form of acceptance as we go into League 2.

// Jim Potter – @JamPot44

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So, it wasn’t meant to be like this, was it? How does our predictive, history-led analysis stack up against reality? And given our current predicament, is there any hope left for the season?

Co-incidence is a strange animal. It creeps up on you when you least expect it; but expect it you should because it’s really history (in the game). Think, really… first game in the New Year is Fleetwood and who’s still in the Cup? Yep, a nailed on certainty (why didn’t I hit the bookies then?)

Likewise , in our last analysis, it was just after we played Plymouth away so it is that this analysis follows Plymouth at home. So more than half the season gone, Neal Ardley’s gone, Neil Cox is gone and the club feels ripe for change and perhaps change is both a-coming and required. We’ll see.

And change on the pitch has very much been what we have needed. With first Simon B/Stephen Reid in charge, a touch of stability ensued and gradually things are appearing to get better. But how does this relate to our table of predictive results?

Less we not remember, as mentioned numerous times previously, a point per game is not guarantee of survival. So played 24 with 21 points we are behind, and if the oft mentioned 53 point safety line is anything of note, we feel an awfully long way away from it at present!

So how have things shaped up since last time? Perhaps, not surprisingly, our inability to get our expected result in 75% of these games shows why we are hurting. Indeed, the expected home wins against Portsmouth, Luton and Shrewsbury have probably done the most damage. Whilst our away form has prevented us picking up the odd point we expected – like at Plymouth, Doncaster and even Charlton – losing at Peterborough where we expected to win, didn’t help too!

Click here for the full breakdown of expected and actual points.

The specks of light at the end of the tunnel have been the expected win, exactly as score predicted, at Wycombe and the first ‘bonus’ win against Southend which we were expected to lose. But the most significant win perhaps will still turn out to be that at home to Plymouth, converting an expected 1-2 loss into a 2-1 win.

However, there is no doubt that we are still very much up against it; we have accumulated just 40% of the safety net value of 53 pts after passing half way in games. The question to be answered is, can we gain enough points to survive?

Whatever the reality becomes, looking at the remaining games left and the expected results we still have a good potential to be safe as we are down to win 27pts at home and 12 away; that gives us a grand total of 60pts!

Fantasy? Maybe. But the analysis is supporting this fact. Given the teams we have played so far, we were perhaps expected to do poorer in the first half of the season; the initial analysis back in August doesn’t take account of that, just the end of season position. So if we can make KM a fortress, as WAG hope we can, we certainly appear to have a chance; then we just need 3pts away.

With a target of 53 points, our margin of safety is just 7pts which is 3 game results and a relatively fine margin. But it was always going to be that fine a margin by the end of the season.

These statistics do at least give us a modicum of hope of maintaining paradise …

// Jim Potter – @JamPot44

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So, 12 games in – reasonably past that ‘give them 10 games to bed in phase’ – and and how do we stand? Okay, only 20th in the table with 11 points. But how does that compare to what we expected, given past results, and how does it appear compared to last season’s torture?

The first thing I have to say about this season is that at times, from a personal viewpoint, we’ve been an absolute joy to watch. Okay, the missing of open goals; the poor conversion rate of chances to goals; and the bad luck of deflections, refereeing decisions and mental aberrations at times have been frustrating. But I now go only to KM fearing we might not win.

However, this is a results business and if you don’t produce them then you can be out. And after another surrender to a team below us – one with allegedly a number of first teamers out and no wins at home this season – there is a certain déjà vu feeling again this season.

So, updating our chart where should we have been in terms of points gained, and where are we actually. What went to plan and what did not? Here goes …

Before the start of the season, we were expected to have accumulated (surprisingly) only nine points, and so far we have got 11, so we’re ahead of the game. Of course, the actual games and league position are a reflection of the teams around us now, so although it feels like a ‘win’ there in terms of extra points already gained, in truth, given the sides around us and the performances, it seems more like a loss; bit like you felt after the Oxford win, not feeling the three points.

Looking at the results as they occurred this season it has very much felt like one foot forward, maybe two steps back. The win at Fleetwood was not expected but the draw at home to Coventry was. But then we conspired to lose at home to Walsall instead of drawing, which balanced out in part the Fleetwood win and that was then compounded by the Sunderland loss (how we did I am still trying to work out). I am very circumspect with these games against teams we have not played before; but I have not better proxy than assuming a 1-0 win at home and the same for them away.

The Burton loss was expected, but not by so many goals, whereas the Gillingham win was also one we expected to see. Scunthorpe at home should have been a draw and in many respects is symptomatic of our play and results so far this season: close but no cigar. The win against Oxford is still not one we can guarantee on past performance as our record against them over time has been so bad; but it has been better more recently so perhaps the win was more expected (if performance was not). Games where results differed from projections are highlighted yellow.

Tying things up with Bradford and Plymouth these were both games were we really expected to get something from each: Bradford should have been a win and Plymouth a draw.

So the two-point difference probably exists because of that scraped win against Oxford, but in all was that enough? A number of people required, if not expected, seven points from Oxford, Bradford and Plymouth: are we perhaps in a slow decline? We will see.

So last year we also had (albeit against different teams) nine points from our first 12 games and sat 21st in the table. Today, we are on 11 points and lie 20th, on poorer goal difference (-9 compared to -7).

Anyway, to the future and the fear already rising: Portsmouth (h), Blackpool (a), Bristol Rovers (a), Luton (h), and Shrewsbury (h). Some are seeing no points from them and when you look at them all you can see why: Portsmouth top of table and smarting from home defeat by Gillingham; Blackpool unbeaten in nine; never got anything from Rovers; and Luton and Shrewsbury seem to be random games that go either way in different seasons. But what do the stats say?

Well, specifically, Portsmouth should be a win, and Blackpool a loss like Rovers will also be. Luton gets us back on a winning track, which we complete with another win against Shrewsbury, so I make that nine points out of 15? I think we would all settle for that and I guess we really do not care how or where those points actually come from in the end, just as long as we get them. If not? Yikes!

We’ll see how it all panned out in the next update around the end of the calendar year.

// Jim Potter – @JamPot44

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In 1957, Delmer Daves directed a film called 3:10 to Yuma. It was, for all intents and purposes, a fantastic film with grit, thrilling sequences and it helped push the boundaries of what cinema goers could expect in a western film.

In 2007 the film was remade by James Mangold and, taking cinema goers expectations to one side, it was a perfectly exciting remake. It contained a bit more gore, thrills and spills, and fluidity.

You see, the development of cinematic skills: digital editing, special effects and direction of camerawork made it easily possible to polish the already excellent screenplay into something slightly more. A more enjoyable production of a previous incarnation. As a fan of 3:10 to Yuma I now hope that they don’t create another film that will go backwards. And the same can be said about Wimbledon on Saturday.

This season’s AFC Wimbledon, as proven by most of the matches this season, has provided the supporters and fans of the club with an improved version of the football on show. The remake of 3:10 to Yuma, if you will. However, the end product was still the same as the previous installment. The results aren’t going our way, the important choices by personnel aren’t quite coming to fruition. The whole change of cast and production side of the football club can’t seem to correct one missing piece of the puzzle to make the fans walk away saying, “Wow, now that is something I want to see again.”

Saturday’s performance for the first 45 minutes (if you don’t include the long delay due to the injury sustained by Borthwick-Jackson) was like watching last season’s Wimbledon. And the atmosphere within Kingsmeadow was a carbon copy of last season. We all witnessed how all the players on the pitch were doing a fantastic job of replicating the players of last season. But the second half, bar the defensive lapse which let them score their third and final goal, was the newer version: more intensity, pulsating attacking play and inventiveness near to the final third. It did seem a little black and white, in parts, though.

As much as I love both versions of 3:10 to Yuma, I will always prefer watching the 2007 version of the film. The same goes for 2017/18 Wimbledon and 2018/19 Wimbledon. As much as I love the club and always will, I would still prefer to watch the 2018/19 Wimbledon above the 2017/18 version. The only worry is that actually, the 2018/19 version, come the end of the season, will turn out to be a carbon copy. Or even worse: a more expensive version of a replication with no improvements to the making of the team. Maybe it is time to get a new editor or art director? In footballing terms: a new coach, in some way or another.

// Mark Hendrikx – @MarkatCIFF

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After a well-earned rest from the stresses of last season, we are now just a few short days away from our first fixture of 2018/19, away at Fleetwood. So, I’ve crunched the numbers, and this is how history suggests we will fare against our 23 League One rivals this year.

The first thing of note is that we are playing 23 clubs this season – not 22 and an abbreviation.

Moving on from that, we can see from this table that, theoretically, we should have a pretty decent season. We are expected to achieve 45 points at home and 21 away, giving us an overall total of 66 points that would have put us, comfortably, in eighth place last year.

Last season, on the basis of the teams we were to play, we were scheduled to accumulate 64 points, but we only achieved 53 – 83 per cent of our projected total.

So why should we have confidence in these stats that this season might be better? Well, it’s the averaging process. Simply put, one bad season should be offset by a good one. Overall, we are pretty average since we got into the league: in fact, over the longest term, our average does come out at around 15 wins, 16 draws, and 15 defeats – a season total of 61 points. So you can see we are owed a bit in terms of getting the average back on track! Of course, that promotion season helped …

In terms of individual games, not a lot has changed for those teams we play this year compared to last. Even good results, like the 4-0 at Bradford, do not counter what has gone before too much; history still says we should lose that one but by a smaller amount!

The uplift in fortunes this season compared to last lies in the teams promoted and relegated. Will we face two teams this year that we have not played before in the league as AFC Wimbledon: Barnsley, and Sunderland. As it happens, we play them both in the first month!

As usual with these ‘new’ opponents, I have assumed a 1-0 win at home and a 1-0 defeat away. In some respects, these might be the most interesting games of the season, stat-wise.

So we start with:

  • Fleetwood, which should be a loss;
  • Coventry, a draw;
  • Barnsley, a loss;
  • Walsall: draw;
  • and Sunderland, which goes down as a win.

If that pans out as predicted, we’ll pick-up five points from five games – only a point a game and not good enough over the full season at that rate. Sort it out, Ardley!!

We will see though, won’t we? And hopefully I will be checking our progress with updates during the season, if the podcast team lets me …

// Jim Potter – @JamPot44

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So, how did we manage that escape? Here’s the analysis of where we bucked historical trends to secure our first division future (above the scum).

So, in our last six games, our results were expected to be:

  • Charlton: draw 1-1;
  • Walsall: most likely lose 3-1;
  • Oldham: also draw (0-0);
  • Wigan: lose 1-0 – the standard home win given as we have not played there before;
  • Doncaster: lose 1-0 (see above!);
  • Bury: win 2-1.

The Charlton game turned into a win: a great start boosting us two points up.

Then, the key game that I think turned our potential into actual survival, the dramatic win at Walsall – 3-2 in stoppage time, in front of all those volunteers on their day out. Pure bliss (Alexa? – Ed).

Oldham we see should have been a draw and in the end was, although there was a feeling of missed opportunities having led twice in the game.

Such negativity within the fan base, tempered by the idea of a ‘free hit’ at Wigan since they were effectively promoted and ready to celebrate, saw the old WFC spirit surface and we gained another valuable extra point in our quest.

And then Doncaster, with the given statutory home win, saw another sterling performance that gained us the valuable extra point that secured our safety.

Although drawing against Bury proved insignificant in terms of our final placing of 18th (other results dictated this), we were down to win 2-1 but again, as so often this season, we failed to take our chance. In many ways, it was symptomatic of our year overall.

So there is that bit to the analysis. But the other variable to play a part was the performance of the other teams around us. In the end, we topped that mini-group of final prospects for the drop and so our survival was assured. Over the last six games, if we compare form:

Team Pts with six games left Final pts total Pts from last six
Wimbledon 43 53 10
Rochdale 42 51 9
Northampton 40 47 7
Bury 30 36 6
Walsall 47 52 5
Oldham 45 50 5
Pigeon Cocks 42 45 3

Firstly – apart from ourselves, Rochdale and Northampton (just) – none of the other teams managed to exceed that ‘unwritten’ one point per game average final target, which might see you avoid relegation. Ultimately, Northampton and Bury were just too far behind.

Walsall, after our surprising win over them, steadied enough to win against Northampton, which proved to be critical to them surviving and the Cobblers going down. Oldham’s inability to convert draws (five!) into wins, like with Northampton, saw them fall through the trapdoor, with 50 points not being enough this time!

And as for the scum … well, apart from a win at resting Shrewsbury, their form here, and further back, mirrors ours of last year. Will they arrest such a decline? Who cares?

So we survive to fight another day. These stats will tweak the averages a little more as we look forward to next season, but stats – as Neal Ardley has seen – aren’t always everything. Remember last year, Shrewsbury finished 20th – and look at the season they have just had!

We live in hope don’t we, and at present we can safely say the hope is not killing us anymore – until August, at least.

// Jim Potter

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So, since the last review at the beginning of November, is our ‘indicator’ – based on past history panning out – predicting our future survival in League 1? Another three months gone, 15 more games down, and it’s time we look at what occurred and what is in store at the ‘business end of the season’.

The loss against Northampton should really not have come as a surprise to anyone as, along with Oxford over the years, they have been one of our bogey teams. This was a banker home loss on the indicator as we have only had three decent results against them ever since we reformed – two draws and a win.

But looking back over the last three months, the surprises on the pitch have definitely correlated to be the surprises we find in the table of expected and actual results. Overall, we have performed pretty much as expected: over this period, we were expected to get 10 points – and that is exactly what we got.

What is interesting, though, is a fair portion came from games where we were NOT expected to get them. Bradford away is the shining example of this, as the expected result was a 3-1 loss. To win was good; to win that way was exceptional. However, we have to temper this by pointing out that at home, the indicator says that we should have won, albeit 3-2.

Southend are another team we have a poor past record against, and the home game with them was another we were expected to lose. The win was not only welcome, but very important. Bristol Rovers away is, also, a totally unhappy hunting ground (I am still trying to work out why Meades played right-back when I went there to watch once), with an expected 2-0 loss pencilled in by the indicator, but again, a turn-up for the books and an impressive 3-1 win.

But outside of these, there is the nibbling tendency to undo all this good work by losing or not drawing games that we should have. Losing to Walsall at home when we should win; not getting the expected draw away at Portsmouth, followed by not winning when we should have at the Gills. However, the draw at the shit bowl meant we gained a point there on prediction, which was only to be negated at Bury, where we were expected to draw, but lost.

The other games, such as Peterborough, played to form, although the Wigan result – where having not played them before, I used the default score of a 1-0 home win – was an exception to the rule.

  • Click here for a full breakdown of predictions and results

So what comes next? Well Plymouth is an expected away win (1-2), so if we do achieve that, I claim the glory; Bristol Rovers at home should be a draw; Peterborough away is also a predicted win; and Blackburn at home, which completes our February fixture list, should be an easy win (using the default score as we’ve not played them at home in the past).

Looking further ahead, to the rest of the season, and we are predicted to pick up 22 points from the remaining 15 games. During this run-in period, it is found that teams that go down usually average only about a point per game. On the basis of the table after Northampton, the probable line for relegation will be drawn at about 46-47 points.

And whilst we all quite enjoyed January, this month has well and truly started with a vicious bite, and we need to somehow turn results around, otherwise it is quite easy to see us having a dry February in place of a dry January. In theory, things will change in line with the predictions over the next three games.

But as we have seen earlier in this article, this side never does what is generally expected of it: it always seems to do something different. I guess it’s why we still hope, but the hope continues to slowly kill us.

// Jim Potter

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Strange how certain events in football can change a club’s course. Everything in the AFC Wimbledon garden seemed rosy up to that point Freddie Ladapo took a call from Chris Powell halfway through his medical at Kingsmeadow.

The way we handled that situation received widespread criticism and looking back, maybe the negative vibe created by publicly saying he’d legged it at the eleventh hour was the catalyst for our downturn in fortunes.

Events at the end of the January painted us as an unattractive proposition. Ladapo preferred Southend, and there was a whisper that Lyle Taylor had confirmed his future lies elsewhere, as he pencilled a deal for the summer.

Not the ideal window then: we failed to secure an exciting winger to bolster our options, and our star player took somewhat less interest as to what league we’ll be playing in next season.

From having a lot of positivity and momentum after Bradford, we seemed to be thrown off course – and just when we needed to show a bit of strength, we lost our captain. Unfortunate timing, but bad luck that was compounded by the manager replacing him with a player now past it at this level.

Lots has been said about team selection, formation, and tactics for both games this week, which I won’t repeat here. I agree with much of it, but what worries me most, having witnessed 90 minutes at Gigg Lane and 70 minutes at Kingsmeadow over the past week, is how we’ve been out-battled by fellow relegation strugglers.

Northampton are a big ugly side with players like O’Toole and Crooks in midfield, but we also lost all our battles against a Bury team of average stature. So what I’ve seen on the pitch this week indicates it’s mentality, rather than physicality, that’s letting us down.

And I wonder if that comes from the manager. Because when we win or pick up a few decent results, there is a slight air of arrogance that comes across: taking the credit for our good performances with, crucially, an undertone that we knew we were pretty good all along and have just been waiting to climb up to our rightful position in the league.

Does that transmit to the players? I hope not, because the reality is that we’ve got a bang average squad for this level – and we need to fight and scrap with 100 per cent effort for every point.

We didn’t take to the pitch at Gigg Lane looking like a team thinking that way. The home team did, and they put us on the back foot from the referee’s first whistle.

If we had the approach Bury demonstrated – that we can’t afford to leave anything on the pitch in any game between now and May – I think we’d have picked up a couple of results and be sitting comfortably in mid-table.

But we only seem capable of showing the necessary fight when we slip into the relegation places. Maybe an alarm bell rings in the players’ lounge; maybe the management get them fired up. But whatever happens, they put in one or two battling performances that drag us up and out of the bottom four again.

So no matter what lies behind our inconsistency, it’s put us right back in the relegation battle, and if we don’t sort it out, there is a danger of us going down.

That said: I’m not going to panic just yet.

With the wonderful work franchise are doing, there’s probably only one relegation place available to us and with the right mentality, we should be able to finish above one of Fleetwood, Blackpool, or Oldham. Clubs like Northampton and Southend are already pulling away from trouble, leaving us and the above-mentioned to fight over that last place in Division 4.

Anyway, as I’ve got this far into the match report without mentioning the Northampton game, I’ll deal with it very quickly.

The positives were Robbo returning to the bench, and that we scored from a set piece. The negatives were every other set piece, Northampton scoring three, and how easily Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had the better of Neal Ardley tactically. They seemed to be strolling through the middle of us second half – well, certainly for the 25 minutes of it I hung around for, at least.

My MOTM I’m going with Liam Trotter again. Had a decent game and put that early chance on a plate for Pigott – what a different afternoon it might have been if Joe had provided the finish it deserved.

Player Ratings Long 6; Fuller 7, Oshilaja 6, Charles 7, Francomb 6; Forrester 5, Soares 6, Trotter 7; Barcham 5, Pigott 5, Taylor 6.

Up Next Plymouth on Tuesday may see even fewer of us in attendance than the 131 at Bury. I’m going to predict a 4-0 home win, because you know what we’re like when everyone expects we’ll get hammered, and we could really do with a surprise point or three to stop the rot.

// Andy Dixon – @andydixon975