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Play-offs look unlikely – but you never know
12:00pm Wednesday 11th April 2012 in Steve Carley By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
SO, Worcester City’s play-off bid comes down to this – win their last three games and hope it’s enough.
Following Easter Monday’s disappointing 3-0 defeat at Nuneaton Town, City’s fate is no longer in their own hands.
Even with Nuneaton’s six-point deduction, seventh-placed City are four points adrift of the top five with just three games left to play – against Hinckley United (home), Gainsborough Trin-ity (away) and Workington (home).
Nine points might be enough to squeeze them into the Blue Square Bet North play-offs come April 28 but they would need a few favourable results elsewhere.
Not beyond the realms of possibility, but anything less would make their task extremely tough.
I am certainly not writing City off because had you offered them four wins and a defeat at Nuneaton from the last five games, they would have gladly taken it.
The Liberty Way clash looked the toughest of the quintet on paper and, so far, that has proved to be the case.
Nuneaton showed just why they were in the mix for the title for much of the season, being clinical in front of goal.
City were distinctly second best on Monday and few would argue with that. The game had an air of anti-climax about it. After all, Wor-cester were in irresistible form, having lost just once in 12 league games, including seven victories.
But, when it came to the crunch, they couldn’t quite deliver.
That is not a criticism, simply a fact.
Nobody is denying Carl Heeley’s team have performed wonders this season and reaching mid-April with the scent of success still in their nostrils is testament to that.
Being virtually guaranteed to finish no lower than seventh is a remarkable achievement, given Worcester’s woes of the recent past, and the team deserves immense credit.
Yet, challenging for the play-offs brings an inevitable rise in expectation from fans and media alike, and one telling statistic has caught my eye.
City’s record against their fellow promotion rivals follows a definite pattern – draw at home, lose away – and it could prove decisive.
They lost 2-1 at leaders Hyde on the opening day of the campaign before hitting back twice through two Tom Thorley penalties to draw 2-2 in December.
Against Guiseley, they were humbled 4-1 in Yorkshire in September before conceding an agonising late equaliser in November’s 2-2 draw, a game they led 2-0.
It was a similar tale at Halifax in January, conceding twice late on to lose 2-1, having held the Yorkshire-men 1-1 at home in August.
In the same month, Nuneaton left the Lane with a point after Michael Taylor struck an injury-time equal-iser, while a 2-0 October defeat at sixth-placed Staly-bridge was followed up with last month’s goalless stalemate against 10 men.
To date, City’s thrilling 2-1 triumph against Gainsbor-ough at the Lane last month is the only time they have beaten one of the current top five.
They might just need to repeat that feat when they travel to Lincolnshire on Saturday week if they want to join that group.
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