It's business time - and these statistics show exactly what Portsmouth have to do to gain promotion

It was a niche reference from Joe Gallen.
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Some chuckled at the comedic link he made to the question about Pompey’s season being down to the nitty-gritty with 14 games remaining. For others, it blew over their heads propelled by Storm Dennis’ gale-force winds and into the dark Fratton night.

‘It’s business time - like Flight of the Conchords,’ said the Blues assistant, as he echoed one of the hits of the award-winning HBO series.

And it certainly is that.

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Let’s soak up the drama of last night’s late, late victory over Exeter City which saw Pompey get a modicum of national attention and some late-night rolling news attention on Sky Sports.

Let’s look ahead with anticipation to the prospect of another of those special evenings under the Fratton lights, as we welcome Arsenal’s band of Premier League stars and emerging starlets to PO4 in 12 nights’ time.

But let’s not be distracted. Let’s not take our eye of the prize. Ensuring Championship football is achieved is where it’s really at, and reflecting on knockout memories won’t satisfy enough in itself this time.

As surprisingly strong as Kenny Jackett opted to go in the EFL Trophy, he’s fully aware of that. And with that powerful statement of intent against a much-changed Grecians side, the Pompey boss sent out a message he believes he now has a squad to sustain that charge.

Pompey's form has been imperious since Kenny Jackett faced angry fans after the defeat at AFC Wimbledon. Picture: Joe PeplerPompey's form has been imperious since Kenny Jackett faced angry fans after the defeat at AFC Wimbledon. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey's form has been imperious since Kenny Jackett faced angry fans after the defeat at AFC Wimbledon. Picture: Joe Pepler
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On the evidence of results you’d be hard pressed to disagree. But, after the Blues’ desperately poor opening stanzas this term, will it be enough?

The numbers game once again proves revealing when it comes to how this season is shaping up on that front.

The League One table tells us how precarious and volatile the race to the Championship is proving to be, in one of the most open third-tier title races ever.

Nine points covering the top 11 places. Five points separating the top seven. It may have been one of the most dramatic of all top-flight title wins Brian Moore was describing 31 years ago, but he could have been reflecting on the third-tier terrain in 2020. It really is ‘up for grabs now’.

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And Pompey have been doing everything which could reasonably be expected of them to ensure they are one of the sides swiping the promotion prize come the final reckoning. That’s been the case for virtually four months now.

Since squeaking to a 1-0 win over Lincoln to ease some of the fury aimed at Jackett off the back of the bleak AFC Wimbledon loss, Pompey’s form has been nothing short of imperious - and every inch that of a team headed for the second tier.

The league record now reads: P 19, W 12 D 4 L 3. Interpreted another way, it’s 40 points from a possible 57, or, as we will revealingly see, a huge 2.1 points per game.

That means the HMS Pompey has now long been sailing along not only above the plimsoll line associated with promoted sides, but that of champions. And the ship’s captain is fully aware if his vessel it reach its intended port, that is what’s required.

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‘You do almost need two points a game,’ Jackett recently stated of the form required from his side. ‘Out of those (in contention) there will be enough who do.

‘The big teams do put the runs in at the end, the sides who do it will. The sides who do will have a final 20 games will do it with a high total from those games.

‘It will be great and there is the opportunity. We have to see that - two points a game.’

It’s Pompey’s poor early-season results which has hindered them this term, but it seems clear enough a continuation of what their long-term has been is what’s required. And looking back to the mean total associated with promotion in League One over the past 20 seasons absolutely underscores that fact.

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In that time, the average figure to reach the top two has been 87.5 points (74.5 points for the play-offs and 94.15 points to finish as champions) with Colchester the lowest on 79 points 2006 and Blackburn the highest (96) in 2018.

That 87.5 point figure, interestingly, boils down to 1.9 points per game for the top two (2.04 points for the champions and 1.61 play-offs). So, Pompey’s form over a four-month period (in the league alone) has been well above those thresholds.

But, of course, there’s something a little different about League One this season.

With Bury’s expulsion, the total number of games drops from 46 to 44 for the first time unlike any other campaign in the 20-year period analysed. That then makes the points-per-game total significant.

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An adjusted average figure for a 44-game season, at the same rate or return, would make the target total 83.6 points (89.76 for promotion and 70.84 for the play-offs)

Pompey currently sit sixth on 53 points with 14 league games remaining.

If they were to continue their current outstanding points-per-game return that would see them end up on 82 points - extremely close to the target total.

Forget the projections and statistics, though, because the more pressing fact is anything less than a win at in-form Fleetwood on Saturday and Jackett’s men are likely to find themselves out of the play-off places.

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That reality goes to underline the swathe of clubs who will still regard themselves as serious contenders for the top two. At least eight and maybe as many as 11 can stake a claim to that title.

It’s the sheer volume of those involved which brings a resonance to Jackett’s words over his side needing to maintain their incredible form - because the chances are at least one or two rivals will do likewise.

Or to borrow a well-worn phrase from the most successful Pompey manager of recent years: Just keep going.