With just eight games to go, and the prospect of relegation fixed firmly in the rear-view mirror, the anxiety and nerves will have fully set in for many fans. What makes it all worse is not knowing how much is ‘enough’, so to speak. How can we tell that we’re on track to stay up, and are there any warning signs which show relegation is more likely than not?
Reading are currently one point better off than at the same stage last season - 37 accrued so far as opposed to the 36 the Royals had at the time Paul Clement took the reins. So the fact that the Reading side of 2017/18 still managed to beat the drop with a fairly uninspiring eight points from their last eight games should surely give most fans belief that only one more final push is needed this season.
From past seasons, how many points have the relegation-threatened teams picked up in the last eight games of the season to secure safety? First if you need a refresher, this is what the bottom seven looks like now:
While Ipswich and Bolton must surely be too far adrift, just five points separate the five teams above them, and it could be a case that any of those sides will be the third team swallowed up by the relegation zone.
But what can history tell us about the most likely team to be playing League One football next season? Below there are four side-by-side comparisons of Championship tables - one snapshotted with eight games left, and the other showing the final standings.
The main takeaway here is that, bar 2017/18, every team in the relegation zone going into the final eight games of the season stayed there. Only Birmingham City last season managed to get the sufficient points necessary to leapfrog Barnsley.
But how many points would Reading realistically need from looking at these past examples? The average amount gained from the teams staying up are as follows:
2015: 7.25 points
2016: 12.75 points
Incredibly, in this season, Brentford won 19 points from a possible 24 and ended up finishing ninth! If only…
2017: 10.5 points
2018: 8.75 points
So if you take the last four seasons, of the four teams that occupied 18-24th in the table with eight games left - but ended up keeping their heads above water, the average number of points needed was 9.8. If we round that up to 10 points for the sake of realism, then that means last season Reading could be considered lucky for winning just eight points from their last eight games but still achieving survival.
This time around, 10 points should almost definitely be enough to avoid relegation once more, but that’s counting on a combination of 3 wins and one draw or two wins and four draws. Either way, losing four more games will mean things going to the wire, while as already pretty evident, a win against Preston really is of utmost importance.
All Championship tables are taken from BBC Sport.