Happy Easter! It is a slightly surreal feeling to think that this afternoon we welcome Runcorn Linnets for the final scheduled home match of the current season. It’s not impossible that we might yet be gathered here at the IP Truck Parts Stadium but a draw or better this afternoon would ensure that Cables cannot finish in the play-off place. However, with Runcorn Linnets seeking to secure a play-off place and today’s game bringing together two local rivals, nothing can be assumed.
Even if Prescot do find themselves sucked back into the bottom three, it remains likely that the club which finishes 18th in the NPL West Division will be ‘reprieved’ from relegation, by virtue of having either the highest or second-highest ‘points per game’ ratio (PPG) of the eight Step 4 clubs who would qualify for an Inter-Step play-off against a Step 5 runner-up.
It says a lot about just how strong this division is that the 33 points accrued by Newcastle Town by last Saturday’s game would only put them in the bottom five places in four of the other seven divisions at this level and that they wouldn’t be in the bottom three in any of them. My ‘other’ Step 4 club, Ashford Town (Middlesex) are 12th in the Isthmian League’s South Central division thanks to their mighty total of… 38 points. Yet Cables go into today’s match on 39 points and not quite safe.
However else Prescotians might describe the 2021-22 season, one word which won’t ever be used about it is ‘dull’! As we’ve spent weeks thinking about PPG ratios, let’s look at this season in numbers:
- 083: The Pesky PPG ratio going into this afternoon’s match. At the time of writing these notes, no-one with a ratio of 0.94 or higher would go into the play-offs as things stand. Even if Cables lose our remaining matches, the lowest our ratio can drop to is 1.026.
- 2: As we all know, Craig Davies was replaced by Kevin Lynch in September, a decision which has ultimately proved wise given that under the former boss, Cables lost to both Kendal Town and Market Drayton Town. See also, Club Secretaries after Matt Roberts handed over to Paul Goodwin.
- 4: Having three people sharing the top job at the club – as Cables did at the start of the campaign – is unconventional. I’d certainly never come across such a set-up before it happened here. When Matt Roberts and Jamie Weston stepped down, Joe Gibiliru reverted to the role of Vice-Chair and Tony Zeverona returned to the helm. A case of ‘back to the future’, as it were but a change which I think will prove important for the club’s future development.
- 6: Cables’ current position in the Form Guide, having won four and drawn one of our last six matches. Don’t get overconfident, though; Linnets have an almost identical record but their goal difference is one less that the Pesky Bulls’.
- 8: The number of League matches Cables have won at the IP Truck Parts Stadium so far this season. Can we make it nine this afternoon to end the campaign with a winning home record?
- 22: The number of players, according to Football Web Pages, to have made fewer than five First Team appearances in competitive games this season. At first glance, this is a slightly startling number but needs to be taken in context. It reflects both the initial turnover of players triggered by a change of manager and the willingness displayed by Kevin Lynch since coming to the club to move players on if they’re not the right fit for his squad.
- 504: Cables’ average home League attendance this season. This is a remarkable figure for several reasons, not least because it has more than doubled since I started following the club in 2016 and is the sixth highest in the division. The only clubs in the West Division regularly pulling in more fans are all pushing for either automatic promotion or the play-offs. In fact, across the other seven Step 4 divisions, only 9 other clubs in England (plus Guernsey) have higher gates. It is that support which has helped us turn what, at times, looked like a desperate situation around.
- 10,000: The size of the bursary, in pounds, awarded to the club by FA Trophy sponsors Buildbase. The bursary will be provided in the form of materials for improvements to the ground.
Whatever happens in our remaining matches – and ending with two derbies is certainly an interesting way of finishing a campaign – this club has been on quite the journey in 2021-22. I’d argue that, with Kevin Lynch in charge and with everything that’s gone on, we’re ending the season in much better shape than we started.