Football League predictions: 13-15 October

I thought it might be interesting to see if the data in my ‘first 10 games’ report has any predictive use by testing it on this weekend’s fixtures. I’m aware that if I get more wrong than I would have done simply by tossing a coin for each match then I’ll have humiliatingly invalidated my entire body of work. I can’t stress enough that this is entirely speculative and NOT to be treated as betting advice!

What I expect is that it’ll starkly expose the limitations of using a small pool of historical data without sufficient club-specific knowledge to put it in context, as I’ve not had a chance to do any specific research into probable line-ups or analyse recent form in detail.

The way I’ll approach this is to run some simple comparisons between each team’s attack and defence scatter plots, then subjectively tweak the outcomes based on a comparison of each team’s strengths using the other data available. The averaging used by the scatter plots alone will throw out lot of 2-1s, so I’ll need to manually correct for that too.

League 1

Bournemouth 1-1 Leyton Orient

The Eddie Howe factor can’t be dismissed, but it’d be asking a lot of the man to have made any impact so far beyond a morale boost for players and fans alike. The numbers come out pretty even, indicating that Orient are almost certain to score and could even grab another to rain on the prodigal manager’s parade. They’ve conceded few from the centre where Bournemouth have produced more goals, but I’ll assume that cancels out the aforementioned morale boost and stick with a score draw here.

Carlisle 2-1 Notts County

The numbers alone point towards 2-1 to County, but zonal analysis shows that Carlisle should have the upper hand, scoring through the middle where the visitors’ defence is weakest and strong defensively down the flanks where most of County’s goals originate. The home site are also more adept at scoring late, which is when County tend to concede, so I’m going to override this into a home win.

Colchester 1-2 Stevenage

Seemingly a one-sided affair on paper, pairing the division’s most notable underachievers and overachievers, although the stats give Colchester a decent chance of at least getting on the scoresheet. This could well come from a set piece, although comparing the zones shows that Colchester’s left-sided bias aligns nicely with Stevenage’s weaker right. Given their record and performances so far though, it’s hard not to see the visitors walking away with 3 points.

Crawley 2-1 Bury

Ritchie Barker faces his former club in what looks on paper to be another winless day for Bury, although the home side’s permissive defence brings with it a slender shaft of hope. Crawley have shipped a few later goals too, which is when Bury grab a fair few of theirs, so while I can’t see this being the day they turn their season around it could be a respectable showing.

Hartlepool 0-2 Doncaster

Hartlepool are facing one of the division’s most dogged away defences which should provide another frustrating afternoon. While Doncaster have been vulnerable to set pieces, this isn’t a specialism of the home side, so I can’t see past the numbers on this one.

Portsmouth 1-1 Crewe

An intriguing match-up: Pompey score a lot of late goals and Crewe a lot of early ones, while matches at Fratton Park have produced plenty of chances at both ends and Crewe allow a lot of shots at their goal. It’s hard to call it one way or the other: the hosts don’t look capable of exploiting their visitors’ weak left flank and their strength at set pieces looks to be nullified too. Crewe haven’t scored as many goals but have shown that they can hit the target from range, which is where Portsmouth have leaked a few. I’ll plump for a score draw.

Scunthorpe 1-3 Brentford

Another fixture where it’s hard to argue against the data – Brentford are industrious up front and tight at the back, while goals have been Scunthorpe’s problem all season. Their only hope might be to snatch one early on as they have done previously, which is when their visitors tend to be more vulnerable, but even if this does happen I can’t see it being enough to sustain them.

Sheff Utd 1-0 Oldham

The Blades have drawn a frustrating amount of matches this season, and there are signs which point to another one here. However their weakness at the back has been in the air and at set pieces, where Oldham haven’t shown themselves to be an unusually high threat. The high number of chances created by the home side is more or less cancelled out by the visitors’ defensive resilience, but a late goal could settle this one.

Swindon 2-0 Coventry

The team which excels at restricting chances at home host one which struggles to create them away, which makes it difficult to make the case for an upset here. Coventry are improving so I don’t see this being a demolition – they may even pinch one from a set piece – but I can’t see them prevailing here.

Tranmere 4-1 Yeovil

If you look at the number of shots Yeovil typically face on their travels and how clinical Tranmere are at home, we could well see a ridiculous scoreline here (one calculation I ran suggested 7-2). The Glovers are actually quite likely to score today, but if the hosts continue their excellent form we could well see a few goals.

Preston 2-1 MK Dons

Preston’s forward line are one of the division’s most insistent at home, which will certainly test their guests’ robust defence. On paper this one certainly looks to have goals in it and should be both a close contest and an interesting clash of styles, but I can see the hosts just about edging it.

Shrewsbury 1-1 Walsall

Both these sides have relied heavily on set pieces for goals this season while remaining equally resistant to them at the other end. Both concede a high proportion of early and late goals which could make for a dramatic contest, but it’s hard to give either side a clear margin. Shrewsbury have scored all their goals through the centre, which is where Walsall have been defensively weakest, but the hosts are on a poor run and I  suspect the Saddlers can come away with something here.

League 2

Wimbledon 0-2 Cheltenham

Neal Ardley would have probably wanted an easier start to his managerial career: his side have been shot-shy at home this season while their visitors have proven tough to break down on their travels. Both sides favour the centre of the pitch going forward, but Cheltenham’s knack of scoring from long range and corners – two areas where their hosts have been vulnerable – are what gives them the advantage here.

Barnet 1-1 Plymouth

With the Bees now surreally able to call on both Edgar Davids and Collins John, this is probably the toughest one of all to predict. Both sides are vulnerable at set pieces and concede too many penalties, while Plymouth also look porous down the flanks. Barnet strangely allow significantly more shots at home which could prove their undoing, but I’ll go for a score draw.

Bradford 2-1 York

The Bantams’ ability to score from range and potentially exploit York’s weaker right side look sufficient to win them 3 points today, although their visitors look more capable than some of standing up to their set piece bombardment. York have made a solid start to life back in the Football League and have shown they’re not to be underestimated: they make good use of their goalscoring chances away from home but are up against one of the division’s tougher home defences and can also expect a severe test of their own back line.

Burton 2-1 Bristol Rovers

Rovers look to be putting their poor start behind them but can expect a tough test from Burton’s energetic front line. The Brewers  create more chances at home than any other side in the division and have scored from a wide range of situations. They should be too much for a resurgent Rovers side who played in midweek.

Chesterfield 2-1 Dag & Red

Luis Boa Morte is League 2’s other surprise addition and gives much needed balance to a side who have depended heavily on their right wing this season. Their visitors are toughest on the right, so he may not be able to make an instant impact. A tough one to call, but Chesterfield’s strong home performances coupled with the Daggers’ poor away ones should tip the balance – the visitors’ ability from set pieces doesn’t look to be as useful against the Spireites.

Fleetwood 3-0 Wycombe

This looks like being another match in which a resurgence in form stutters, with Fleetwood looking too strong for improving Wycombe given the latter’s poor away record. If you’ll excuse the awful pun, the Cod Army look set to batter the visitors’ defence and are strongest down the right where the Chairboys’ defence is leakiest.

Gillingham 2-0 Aldershot

I can’t imagine much money is being placed on the Shots as they travel to the home of the division’s early leaders. There’s a chance they could fashion something from a set piece where Gillingham are more vulnerable, but it’s hard to see past a home win here.

Northampton 1-2 Exeter

A victory in midweek will boost the Cobblers in preparation for the visit of one of the division’s high fliers. Exeter’s strength down the right is not something Northampton’s leakier left will relish facing. The hosts create plenty of chances at home so they’re likely to score – even if they leave it late as usual – but I have to favour the clinical visitors.

Rochdale 1-1 Morecambe

This is a tricky one to call: Rochdale are very tough to break down at home but tend not to score many their either, while their visitors have a respectable away record. Where Morecambe may come unstuck is at set pieces or in their infuriatingly frequent concession of late goals. However their hosts’ aforementioned profligacy may allow them to grab a point.

Rotherham 2-1 Southend

The Millers consistently out-shoot their opponents home and away, while Southend are very much a side for whom the balance is dictated by home advantage, so I’d expect a busy afternoon around the visitors’ penalty area.  An away goal looks relatively likely, although it’s likely to come late and be insufficient to swing the game in the Shrimpers’ favour.

Torquay 1-1 Accrington

Accrington seem set up to soak up shots away from home, which is exactly what Torquay should be serving up plenty of at Plainmoor. The Gulls are racking up a frustrating number of draws this season, and another one looks likely against a Stanley side who have impressed on the road. The visitors look capable of snatching a win here if Torquay don’t start well.

Port Vale 3-1 Oxford

Oxford have been on a dire run recently but look like they could be turning the corner – a visit to high-flying Vale could provide a setback though. Their hosts are ruthless at both ends on home turf, while the Yellows themselves are noticeable less effective on the road. Both sides are most vulnerable through the middle but have plenty of options going forward, which should mean goals at both ends. I’d back the hosts to prevail though.


  • Really loving your stats – but so far you got 2 or was it 3 results correct out of saturdays matches? Looking forward to your analysis 🙂

  • Don’t let results put you off. Punters love to read the thoughts of anybody who sees the game differently and – dare I say it – objectively. It’s not the predictions that matter, but the analysis in between – set piece threats, weak right side vs strong left side, etc. Keep it coming!

    • Much appreciated! I’d have been shocked if I got a lot right as it was a relatively simplistic canter through. I actually would have got a lot more right if I’d not meddled with the raw outputs, and most were only the odd goal away from being accurate, so far from discouraged. Will continue to experiment with the predictive side, factoring in some of the ‘goal type’ data more rigorously and also form.

  • I read a while back someone carried out a thesis and identified that most goal distributions followed a double poisson distribution curve. Have you ever looked into it and used it to predict results?

    • Thanks for the comment. I know Poisson is one of the more popular distributions used for predictions and this whole area is something I’ll definitely be looking into now that I have a decent base of data to build on.

  • Very interesting article and good to see you putting the well thought out analysis into practice. I think there’s definitely merit in using stats/analysis to predict the outcome of games – even if football is unpredictable (which is why we love it!). It’s not Championship, League 1 and League 2 focused, but have you heard about PowerTable before? They use stats and analysis to predict the outcome of games and produce very insightful information too Keep the good work coming!