Sunday, 21 March 2010

JIM'S COLUMN 20.3.10

Tuesday night’s home defeat to Cardiff City put a large dent in Coventry City’s play-off hopes, especially after Saturday’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Plymouth Argyle. The gap between City and sixth-placed Cardiff is now five points and the Bluebirds have a game in hand.

In the face of some dreadful hype from supporters and the media I have urged a dose of realism for several weeks, pointing to the ambitious points total required for a play-off place and the fact that City faced home games with some of their bogey sides. Cardiff are one of those teams who have an impressive record in Coventry, having lost just once in the league since 1966, the final game of Dennis Wise’s short but impressive stay at the club. Cardiff boss Dave Jones is certainly getting his revenge on his former club who supposedly mistreated him after his 1979 transfer from Everton. Jones, like fellow signing Gary Collier, never recovered from a nightmare start in a defeat at Stoke on the opening day of the season, and started on nine games in almost three seasons. Since 2001 Jones has brought Wolves and Cardiff to Coventry on seven occasions and lost only once.

Five points have therefore been dropped against two teams supposedly out of form and ‘there for the taking’ and City followers are again guilty of counting their chickens before they hatch. Numerous reasons will be put forward for the two relatively poor performances and, yes, it was a dreadful penalty decision that cost City a vital penalty on Tuesday but my theory is that the players and the management had been taken in by the play-off hype.

Chris Coleman is normally a stubbornly measured interviewee who rarely gets carried away, but ahead of the Cardiff game he admitted in the press to looking at the league table ‘400-500 times a day’. Whilst this is probably a wild exaggeration, the fact that he even looked at the table is not good news. Judging from the team’s second half performance he would have spent his time better preparing them or watching videos of his impressive opponents.

Returning to the number of points required for the play-offs, Geoff Moore has provided me with some statistics on the number of teams achieving 69 points or above in all divisions since the play-offs came into being. No club has ever got into the play-offs with less than 70 points and until you get above 72 points the chances of getting there are less than 50:50. Many believe that this season 69 or even 68 points will be enough but the stats do not support that. By the way in 2000 Bristol Rovers reached 80 points in Division Two and missed out on the play-offs, finishing 7th.

Points In top six Out of top six % in top six
81 10 0 100
80 13 2 87
79 13 0 100
78 17 1 94
77 8 0 100
76 18 1 95
75 17 2 89
74 16 8 67
73 17 5 77
72 13 11 54
71 10 12 45
70 5 25 17
69 0 21 0

More stats were requested by several people including Steve Pittam and Dave Long. It’s the common belief that the Sky Blues’ results are better when Sammy Clingan is in the team and this table goes some way to supporting that view.

I looked at the record of each player this season and calculated the number of points won as a percentage of the points available when they were playing. I have only included the starting line-ups as it gets too complicated with substitutes. If a player had started every league game this season his record would be: Played 37, won 13, drawn 11, lost 13, points 50 which is 45% of the points available. The results make interesting reading and the top ten players are:

Pl W D L Points % points
McPake 13 7 4 2 25 64.1
Bell 13 6 5 2 23 58.9
Baker 9 4 3 2 15 55.5
Clingan 23 10 8 5 38 55.1
Barnett 13 6 2 5 20 51.2
Wright 30 11 11 8 44 48.9
Gunnarsson 28 11 8 9 41 48.8
Westwood 35 13 11 11 50 47.6
Cranie 30 11 8 10 41 45.5
McIndoe 37 13 10 12 49 44.1

James McPake and David Bell amazingly have only been on the losing side twice each and are well ahead of the field at the moment, and Baker, who has started only nine games is also ahead of Sammy. The Irishman however has an impressive record and it was not a coincidence that the team slipped from 11th to 17th during his absence from the side in the autumn. Bell’s position in the table may surprise many fans who feel we haven’t seen his best form this term but City’s strong form since early December coincided with his return from injury and has allowed Chris Coleman to play a true wide player on the right.

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