A STRONG run of form in March has got Oxford United talking up their chances of automatic promotion, even if recent seasons suggest it will be a tall order.
Victory at home to Morecambe tomorrow would see the U’s reach 68 points for the season – the mark which got Torquay United into the play-offs last season.
But over the last ten years teams in seventh have finished with an average of 71 points.
U’s boss Chris Wilder is under no illusions that the job of qualifying for the play-offs is almost complete.
He said: “There’s no doubt about it, I do believe it will be a lot higher this season, 68 points got you in the play-offs last season, but that won’t be enough this time.”
That may be beside the point, as with five weeks of the season remaining, United are fixing their gaze on making up the six-point gap to Crawley Town in third place, rather than holding onto their four-point advantage over Crewe Alexandra in eighth.
Wilder said: “I still think there’s enough of a chance, I think we all do.
“We’ve seen the gap close in the last month, there’s still seven games to go and if a team has a decent run in April it will close even more.
“Everybody’s got to play each other and the situation at the bottom of the table affects it as well because there’s a lot of teams fighting for their lives.”
If the U’s match their form from the previous seven games over the last seven, they would finish on 79 points.
It would see them comfortably into the play-offs, but shy of the 82-point average which has claimed the third automatic promotion place in recent seasons.
So to gatecrash the top three they need either a near-perfect finish or rely on the sides above them, who have shown signs of feeling the pressure, continuing to falter.
One thing Wilder is convinced about is the same fate will not befall United during the run-in.
“I don’t think the jitters will set in for us, I honestly don’t because of the players we’ve got and the characters in the changing room,” he said.
“They’re confident boys, I don’t think that will set in.
“The only way I want this season to finish early is if we go up automatically, but we want to keep this going on.”