Oxford United v Port Vale: History points to Valiants achieving their League Two promotion goal
BACK-TO-BACK home defeats might have led to a severe case of the promotion jitters for the more pessimistic of Port Vale's supporters.
But a glance at the final League Two tables over the past decade suggests that the Valiants remain very much on course for glory.
In fact, victory at Oxford tomorrow (3pm) could leave Micky Adams's men needing just five wins, and perhaps a couple of draws, from their remaining 11 games to get over the finishing line.
The average points tally for the team in the final automatic promotion place over the last decade is 82.3.
That leaves Vale, who have so far amassed 63 points from 34 games, likely to need around 20 more to ensure they go up without the need to enter the lottery of the play-offs.
So far this term they have been averaging 1.85 points per game, meaning only a complete slump in form would now deprive them of League One football next season.
Anything is possible, of course, so no-one at Vale Park is counting their chickens just yet, but skipper Doug Loft remains confident.
Reflecting on Tuesday's deflating home defeat to Exeter City, he said: "It was disappointing to lose, but we are where we are for a reason.
"We've got a good enough squad to turn our fortunes back around again and I'm confident in us doing so.
"No-one is more disappointed to lose games than the players, and we know what we've got to do from now on."
While Adams might be wishing his team could play all their remaining games away from home, the key to their ultimate success is likely to be at Vale Park.
The Valiants have lost just twice on the road this season, claiming an impressive 35 points from 17 games ahead of tomorrow's trip to Oxford.
While that works out at an average of more than two points per game, five defeats at Vale Park have restricted their tally on home soil to an inferior 28 from 17 – or 1.64 per outing.
The prospect of winning all six of their remaining away games, including tomorrow's trip to the Kassam Stadium, appears slim – even for a team looking to equal a club record of 10 unbeaten on the road.
So with crunch games to come against several teams chasing either automatic promotion or the play-offs, it's in Burslem where the outcome of the season is likely to be decided once and for all.
Cup giant-killers Bradford City are the visitors on Tuesday night and it's Vale Park again next Saturday when play-off chasers and Johnstone's Paint Trophy finalists Southend are in town.
So a clash against lowly Aldershot might prove to be something of a "must win" as Vale's final three home games involve Cheltenham, Burton and Northampton Town – all teams likely to be battling for a top-three position.
While no-one is thinking that way, the Valiants are likely to need just three more wins to secure at least a play-off position, if history is anything to go by.
The average points total for teams finishing seventh – the last of the play-off spots – over the last 10 years is 71.2, well within Vale's reach.