Never Say Never?

Last updated : 21 March 2011 By Jim Bonner
With just eight games of the season remaining there is growing mood within the Portsmouth squad that a top six finish is still an attainable target.

Pompey currently sit 13th in the Championship but just six points behind Nottingham Forest in sixth place. With the team in such good form, just how realistic is the prospect of securing a play-off berth come the end of the campaign?

With 24 points to play for, the total points that Portsmouth can accumulate is 78 points. It's extremely unlikely that Pompey will win every game left so what can history tell us about how many points are required to finish sixth?

Here is a list of the last ten teams that have finished sixth in the Championship along with their points total:

2010: Blackpool - 70 points
2009: Preston - 74 points
2008: Watford - 70 points
2007: Southampton - 75 points
2006: Crystal Palace - 75 points
2005: West Ham - 73 points
2004: Crystal Palace - 73 points
2003: Nottingham Forest - 74 points
2002: Norwich - 75 points
2001: West Brom - 74 points

Looking at that list it's fairly safe to say that at least 70 points will be required to finish in the top six. Because it's so tight at the top, I think 70 points will be enough to secure a play-off place, especially as the chasing pack will have to take points from each other.

Assuming that 70 is enough, Pompey will need to win five and draw one of their remaining eight games.

Is that possible looking at the fixture list? This is who Pompey have left to play:

Reading (A)
Preston (H)
Coventry (H)
Cardiff (A)
Swansea (H)
Burnley (A)
Norwich (H)
Scunthorpe (A)

With Reading sitting three points above Pompey and with a game in hand, it is essential that we go to the Madejski Stadium and win.

Should we beat the Royals then the two following fixtures look very winnable on paper, with Preston currently sitting bottom of the league and Coventry sinking like a stone.

However, the difficulty of these fixtures may be deceptive given that Phil Brown has rejuvenated Preston somewhat and will be looking to complete a "great escape" whilst Coventry should have a new manager installed by the time they visit Fratton Park and I expect they will also have a new lease of life.

Given that Pompey have hardly been performing well at home this year, I feel this is where we may slip up and drop costly points. Even if we win these games on top of the Reading match, the next four fixtures are some of the toughest in this division and I'm sure points will be dropped in these games.

Then there's the fact that even though Pompey only lie six points from sixth position, we are still in 13th and have to leap Millwall, Leicester, Hull, Watford, Burnley and Reading before we can reach the play-off zone.

Not just that, but a meagre goal difference essentially means that we need to gain seven points on those teams above us as they all have vastly superior goal differences.

Therefore, in reality it's very unlikely that Pompey will achieve a play-off berth come May. Unlikely, but not impossible. If we could sneak into the top six then I would fancy us to win the play-offs as the form team usually have enough momentum to win at Wembley.

For those of you who believe that Portsmouth will be playing in the Premier League next season, you can get odds of up to 33/1 at the bookies if you feel like taking a cheeky punt.

For the rest of us with our feet still firmly on the ground, let's see what happens at Reading in a fortnight's time.