Don't know about you but I find these International Breaks just about the most annoying thing on the planet since that new bylaw in Madrid about the neccesity of picking-up dogshit (good job they supply handy little bags or nobody would bother.)
Nothing to do for 2 weeks except stare at The Table twiddling your whatsit and then a sudden burst of 3 games in 8 days, what a nonsense. And, of course, this time round it's even worst with another midweek game the following week. So starting this Saturday, 5 games in 2 weeks after none at all in the last two. Pards must be pulling his hair out.
And with the half-way point of 23 games almost upon us, it's another milestone that Pards will be looking at to judge our progress. Twenty-Six wins is the goal and if we want to be consistent that means that at the half-way point we'll need 13 victories. Ops, that's another 5 wins in the next 7 games.
A rather tall order but as you can see, despite our recent good run, it's because we've fallen a bit behind. After 16 games we're got 8 wins, 4 draws and 4 defeats and 28 points. A nice even distribution, and after our tremendous recovery over the three games we're back to 1.75 points per game, which is good but not good enough. The ideal would be 2 points per game and even to reach the target of 26 wins this season we need to get a more on.
As we've said the next 5 are all in a bunch so who are they? Next up are Preston away on Saturday, then Sheff. Uooo at the Valley on the Tuesday and then another home game against Burnley the next Saturday. And then the following Tuesday there's Cardiff away and then Ipswich at home at the weekend.
Putting it simply, 'cause West Brom are waiting for us in Game 22, of that 5 game bunch we need to win 4. Lets pick the easy ones. Both Sheff U and Ipswich have lost 4 games away from home with Ipswich conceding a huge 18 goals and Cardiff have lost 4 at home and won just once. These three games Pards, are a must for the three points.
The other two are a bit difficult to judge. Preston away, with our TV form to contend with, looks a bit stiff as, despite their lowly league position in 21st spot, they have only lost once at home, a 3-0 defeat back in August to Colchester with our favorite ex, Kevin, the first to open the scoring. But its all been relatively easy opposition and while only conceding once in their last three home games, and avoiding defeat each time, their only result of note was a 0-0 draw with Bristol City. But they don't let in many and after 8 home games they've only conceded 5 times and only Ipswich and West Brom have conceded fewer goals at home this season.
Burnley, in comparison, are better at the other end and although in midtable have lost only twice away from home, the last time being 5 weeks ago and they also belong to that rare group of six teams that have scored more goals away than they have conceded.
Both teams are also currently managerless after recently sacking the gaffer and its possible that by the time we play them they'll both have the added advantage of a new manager and players subsequently trying harder.
So a couple of difficult games there then but it all means that by the time we travel to West Brom on December 15th, we need to have a total of 12 wins under our belt. Or it'll be time to reach for one of those little black bags....