The Thundercliffe Files: Marching season

Cod Almighty | Article

by Paul Thundercliffe

12 March 2020

This end of season may be a dress rehearsal for next year, but promotion and a strong March go together hand in hand.

Thundercliffe Files

Two games into March and a win and a defeat, multiple team changes and at least one cup of coffee drunk. The matches against Scunny and Plymouth sort of sum up the season: Jekyll and Hyde could be our front two. Or middle two. The rest of this month brings a flurry of games that will doubtless see a range of formations and performances as-not-so-Jolley Ollie tries to steal a March on next year.

March is often the month that seals a season, be it up or down. Our last five promotions all saw Town have marvellous Marches: a total of 32 games played and just two defeats.

The 1980 champions won five of their seven games, the momentum taking them all the way to the title. The 2016 vintage, despite the feeling that the second half of that season was dire, won 10 points out of their five games in March, that two points per game average better than the season's average of 1.74.

In between were Buckley's three promotion Marches. The theory back in the 1990s is that Buckley's teams do better in March because the pitches were in better condition after a muddy winter. This perceived wisdom is somewhat countered by the fact that, apart from the promotion seasons, in Buckley's 39 other league games in March, he won just 16, five of them in 1994.

In 1990, a Town side sitting in tenth position at the start of March won seven magnificent matches on the trot to fly into second place, where they stayed to the end of the season. Eight points off the top as they kicked off against Doncaster on 3 March, the superlative seven saw Town completely dominate, beating rivals Southend (in a game memorable for a random brand new Ribero kit being worn) and finishing one point off the leaders after a frenetic penalty-kick win over Lincoln.

1991 was similar: five wins and two draws from seven games. Town conceded only two goals and one of them was from Super Clive so doesn’t count. This time the momentum gained wasn't capitalised on, three April defeats culminated in that nail-biting Exeter game.

March 1998 saw Town play seven league games and gain 12 points, slightly down on Buckley’s previous exploits. However, that month saw a further two games as Burnley were famously dispatched over two legs to seal that unforgettable Wembley debut.

With the play-offs not mathematically out of the question, could the remaining March matches make a difference to Town’s season or will they be simply auditions for next year’s third month?