The numbers suggest that safety is well within reach
John Sheridan’s Chesterfield are on course to all-but secure National League safety by mid-March.
That statement is more supposition than fact, but current form and recent history suggest that survival is well within reach.
Since the Manc magician came back to the Proact, he’s guided the Spireites to 13 points from 18.
That’s a little over two points per game.
It’s a third of the club’s total points for the season.
Town now sit 17th in the table on 39 points, four above the drop zone with a game in hand over 21st place.
When he took over, Chesterfield were third from bottom, two points adrift of safety.
Should this two-point-per-game ratio continue, then in five game’s time, Sheridan’s men will hit a magic number.
Over the past 10 seasons, the average points total required to avoid relegation was 48.8.
During that decade, the highest number of points needed in any one season was 54.
So if this was a ‘worst case scenario’ season, which given the form of teams near the bottom, it won’t be, Chesterfield need five wins from a dozen games.
The task might be a little easier than that, should some of the relegation battlers continue to struggle so badly.
Since Sheridan plonked himself down in the manager’s office at the Proact, Maidstone and Boreham Wood have taken just a single point.
Aldershot and Dover have earned five points, Braintree and Havant and Waterlooville six.
Credit where credit is due, Dave Allen’s intervention, his successful pursuit of a manager flying high in League Two, is paying off handsomely.
It’s not a complete surprise either, because Sheridan has previously turned strugglers into winners, in no time.
But even Allen himself spoke of a ‘last roll of the dice’, because you can’t guarantee success with any manager.
He didn’t and perhaps still doesn’t know the division and its teams extensively, but he knows how to get results.
Football, in Sheridan’s own words, is a simple game.
Look after the ball, make good decisions, keep a clean sheet and you give yourself a chance of victory.
He’s taken a side that went almost four months without a league win and masterminded four in four weeks.
It can’t be forgotten how close Town came to victories during that spell and how competitive they’ve been all season, there was definitely something to work with.
The key to the resurgence appears to be clean sheets.
While their goalscoring struggles haven’t exactly disappeared – they’ve scored just six in Sheridan’s six league games – keeping the ball out of the net, particularly in the final minutes, has meant they’ve only needed one goal to win.
Callum Burton enjoyed three clean sheets in 22 appearances, Shwan Jalal has kept six in eight games under Sheridan, not that it’s all down to the keeper – they’ve defended as a team and, at times, relied on luck.
Who would have thought that the manager known for swashbuckling attacking football would turn defence into a platform for an almost miraculous upturn in fortunes?
Defence could underpin survival and, next season, a promotion bid.
League leaders Wrexham, with just 64 goals conceded since the start of last season, have proved that.
Don’t expect many goals this weekend in Wales.