It feels a bit odd to be saying so before St Patrick’s Day, but this season has reached what Sir Alex Ferguson called ‘squeaky bum time’. In fact, for our visitors this afternoon, this is quite literally a must-win game.
The maths is simple; Kendal Town arrive at the IP Truck Parts Stadium this afternoon some 19 points behind Cables. Today is their 32nd League match of the season, meaning that once this game is out of the way they will have only 18 more points to play for. A win for the Pesky Bulls – or even a draw – pushes the Mintcakes through the relegation trap-door through which Market Drayton Town have already passed.
Not that Cables will be able to relax in the event of a positive result this afternoon. While the spectre of automatic relegation can be banished today, it remains important for Prescot Cables to accumulate as many points as possible in the final six matches of a tumultuous season.
The first aim, obviously, is to escape the third-bottom place in the table and avoid the Inter-Step Play-Off against a runner-up from a Step 5 League altogether. However, even if Prescot finish 18th, the Play-Off can be circumvented by having one of the two highest ‘points per game’ (PPG) averages of the teams at Step 4 who finish in the play-off places.
After last Saturday’s games, Cables had a PPG of 0.906, which was the highest average of the eight clubs currently sitting 18th in the Step 4 divisions. Prescot also have the ‘best’ goal difference of this group.
The final six matches of the season could alter Cables’ PPG score significantly. A winning run to end the campaign would almost certain drag the club out of the bottom three but even if it didn’t, maximum points from the run-in would give the Pesky Bulls a PPG of 1.237 and almost certain safety. But if Cables were to lose all of their remaining matches, the average would fall to 0.763 and Prescot would have 90 minutes to save their Step 4 status.
In that scenario, the Bulls would have home advantage and would probably end up facing one of Skelmersdale United, Wythenshawe Town or Charnock Richard. For most of this season, Skem have looked ‘nailed on’ to finish second in the North West Counties League but have stuttered over recent weeks and, while they still hold second place, United only have two matches remaining. They can achieve a maximum of 81 points; if Wythenshawe win the four games they have left, they’d accrue 83 points while Charnock Richard could rack up 84. One or both of the latter clubs will drop points along the way though – they play each other next Saturday.
While a play-off here at the IP Truck Parts Stadium would be a remarkable occasion, it would be a nerve-shredding, gut-wrenching afternoon. Such a game is to be avoided if at all possible and, as fans, we need to provide the team with the same backing we do every week. Together, we can end this season on a high and build towards a bright future at Step 4.