THE longer the suspension of the season goes on, the bigger the chance the outstanding fixtures will not be played.

EFL chairman Rick Parry’s evidence to a select committee yesterday spelled it out loud and clear – time is getting very tight to fulfil the outstanding matches.

With the simplest solution under threat by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a back-up would need to be found.

Other than voiding the campaign altogether, which has happened in non-league football below the National League, a variety of other options have been suggested.

It would provide a final table, allowing a decision to be made on whether traditional play-offs could be held.

If they were trimmed to one-legged semi-finals, the third Sky Bet League One promotion place could be wrapped up with just three matches.

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The first method is on a simple points-per-game system.

This format removes the issue of teams with fixtures in hand – bad news for Sunderland who had played at least one game more than their rivals.

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There is only one move upwards, but it is a significant one as Wycombe Wanderers’ fixture in hand would send them up five places to third, just above Oxford United.

Some see that method as too simplistic, given there were quite big variations on where the remaining games were due to be played.

Splitting the first system to get two values – points per game for each team’s home and away records – was used to determine the final rugby tables.

Under the ‘best playing record formula’, Karl Robinson’s side stay third, behind Coventry City and Rotherham United.

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Again Wycombe move into the play-off places, only just this time, as Peterborough United’s strong home form sees them improve their position to fourth.

Portsmouth, who had five of their last nine games on the road, pay dearly for their mediocre away form and slip from fourth to seventh.

Those two measures are based on what had already happened, given the season was about 80 per cent complete.

Others have tantalisingly attempted to predict the remaining fifth of the campaign.

Computer game Football Manager simulated the final weeks and saw United come out on top to win the title, taking 21 points out of 27.

They pipped Rotherham on the final day thanks to a brace from Matty Taylor, which saw them come from behind to win 2-1 against Bolton Wanderers.

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Coventry stumbled to third, while Portsmouth, Peterborough and Sunderland completed the top six.

The Pools Panel have also been making judgements on each matchday since the suspension.

Although they do not cover every match, the predicted results had the U’s third, behind champions Coventry and Peterborough.

It remains to be seen if any artificial method is needed, but given the tightness of the promotion race there is one obvious angle from a United perspective.

That is just how vital the fightback from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Shrewsbury Town in the final fixture played before lockdown could become.

Under all the measures the U’s have at least a top-six place, but they would drop out of the play-off picture on the straightforward points-per-game method if they had not won in Shropshire.

If that did come into force, Josh Ruffels’ 88th-minute winner would be very important indeed.

“Imagine if they did end up saying the top three as it is now go up,” U’s boss Karl Robinson said.

“Weirdly, the celebrations for that goal were worthy of it being that special.

“I think I even ran down the touchline.”