Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland and co look likely to require record-breaking points effort to grab League One playoff spot

It could take a record-breaking effort for Sheffield Wednesday to wrestle their way into the top six and secure their place in this season’s League One playoff places.

Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 3:00 pm

The Owls are on 66 points with eight matches remaining and such is the fiercely competitive nature of the top six dogfight this season, it could well be that more points than before the third tier was re-branded are required to claim sixth.

Here are a few home truths about what lies ahead – and just how many points Wednesday might need – as we enter crunch time.

How many points will Wednesday need?

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Only Dave Jones' 2011/12 Sheffield Wednesday side had picked up more points after 38 matches than the current cohort since Ron Atkinson's 1990/91 vintage.

Anything worth having is worth fighting for, so they say. And whichever teams finish in the top six this season will have had to fight very, very hard.

Football isn’t played out on a computer of course, but current algorithm projections based on form, remaining fixtures and squad depth, suggest Sunderland will finish in seventh place on 78 points with Wycombe behind them only on goal difference.

That’s a points tally that would have been good enough for playoff qualification in all but one season since it became League One in 2004, when Huddersfield Town finished sixth with 80 points in 2009/10.

The same algorithm has Wednesday finishing in sixth place on 80 points, expecting them to take 14 from their remaining eight matches at a points-per-game average of 1.75, a figure more or less in line with how they’ve performed so far this season.

Remarkably, were this the 2014/15 season, Wednesday would need just one more win from their eight remaining matches to secure sixth place over Chesterfield, who finished on 69 points with an inferior goal difference (+13) to the Owls’ current tally (+19).

Why will it be so hard?

In a nutshell, because so many teams are playing so well and show no signs of easing up.

Fourth-placed Plymouth Argyle have six wins on the spin, all without conceding a goal.

Oxford United have lost one in seven, winning five of those, while Sunderland are unbeaten in six. MK Dons, in third, have only lost once this year.

Wednesday have won eight of their last 12 and Wycombe are also pushing hard having overcome a February wobble to go unbeaten in five.

It has been suggested the size and stature of clubs in the division have contributed, meaning a higher quality of player has been attracted to the league this time out, with larger, more affluent clubs also able to afford more squad depth.

What about days gone by?

The last time Wednesday were in a similar situation in the third tier was under Paul Sturrock in the 2004/05 season, when they went on to achieve promotion.

Interestingly, after 38 matches, Sturrock’s side sat in fourth place but had the exact same points total as the current cohort (66), as well as the same match record (W18 D12 L8).

In fact, aside from Dave Jones’ automatic promotion winning side of 2011/12 (73), the last Wednesday team to better the 38-match points tally of Darren Moore’s team was Ron Atkinson’s 1990/91 vintage (68).

Their two Championship playoff qualification seasons under Carlos Carvalhal (2015/16 and 2016/17) had them on 62 points at this stage of the season.