Midweek previews, 16 Feb 2016
Seeing as the midweek fixture schedule is fairly modest, I’ve combined the previews for the Football League and National League matches into one post.
These templates smash together compact versions of two visualisations: each club’s E Ratings and their relative positions on the attack and defence scatter graphics. I’ve explained them fully here, but in summary they’re intended as a simple pre-match comparison of two teams ahead of a match using high-level performance data. The graphic has three sections:
- The current ratings of the two teams and how these have changed over the past 30 league matches;
- A probability forecast for the match;
- Scatter graphics showing the teams’ attacking and defensive performance this season.
Blackburn are one of this season’s big underachievers: their attack, which had been going off the boil long before Jordan Rhodes’ departure, has struggled to convert chances this season and a strong defence has been unable to compensate. Fulham’s defence has been incredibly vulnerable this season, so you’d back the home side to at least get on the scoresheet here, although their visitors’ own impressive shot conversion rate could lead to an unwelcome lesson in finishing.
This one definitely counts as a promotion six-pointer, with both sides in a position to take advantage of another Middlesbrough draw to advance their own claims for a place in the Premier League next season. Hull are the team to beat, ranking top for both attack and defence, while Brighton are on a four-game winning streak as they look to recover their early season momentum.
Avoiding relegation is still the primary focus of these two sides, so this should be contended as a six-pointer. Both have struggled to create and convert chances this season, so the flow of goals here may depend on defensive generosity. Oldham have been relatively good at restricting their opponents’ shots but have struggled to keep them out, while Blackpool have often tried to weather the storm rather than prevent it.
Bradford’s weekend 4-0 win at Peterborough was surprising for a side who have been far better at defending than attacking this season and they’re likely to get plenty of chances here too. Southend have let teams come at them this season and relied on being tough to breach, while looking fairly modest up front, although to their credit this has largely paid off for them.
Bury will be looking to bounce back from the 6-0 drubbing they received at Coventry but have another tough opponent to deal with. Sheffield United have been as out of sorts as the the Sky Blues recently, with their generally strong underlying performances often going unrewarded. With the Blades’ attack their stronger suit and the home defence looking increasingly leaky, Nigel Adkins will surely be expecting his team to deliver an away win.
Another six-pointer at the scary end of the table sees the bottom side host fourth from bottom. Colchester have struggled for quality at both ends of the pitch, operating one of the most wasteful attacks and the most porous defence by far, while Chesterfield look a shadow of their former selves. However the visitors look capable of avoiding the drop as it stands and of taking something from this match.
Millwall have taken a similar number of shots to Scunthorpe but have been far more effective at converting them. The home side have looked strong all season but a leakier-than-average defence has occasionally let them down, although their visitors may not be equipped to take advantage given how few opportunities they are likely to get.
Despite their encouraging recent results, Crewe’s underlying performance have actually gotten slightly worse, so it would be premature to expect them to continue clawing their way upward. Rochdale are among the stronger sides in the division at the moment and are clear favourites here.
Two of the division’s most-improved sides – both of whom have menaced defences relentlessly – meet here. Accrington look stronger all round and unlike their visitors have been relatively solid at the back, although the Cumbrians are making progress there too.
Hartlepool have looked weak up front for a while and lately their defence has been deteriorating to match, so the visit of an out-of-sorts Notts County should be seen as an opportunity to make a statement. The away side have also suffered significant defensive setbacks, coupled with an attack as wasteful as their hosts’, although they typically create far more chances.
This game looks massive: Oxford are one of the division’s strongest-performing sides but are up against the runaway leaders. Northampton are in scintillating form and appear to be defying some relatively modest performances thanks to an incredibly clinical attack and a stubborn defence. Their hosts’ back line is just as formidable and their attack prolific, so this will be a fascinating contest.
It’s too early to tell if York are turning a corner or merely plateauing. Exeter have looked much more dangerous in attack lately but their defence still allows opponents plenty of opportunities, so much depends on their hosts’ level of adventurousness here.
Altrincham have been quietly improving lately while Chester’s performances have begun to deteriorate, so the hosts should be optimistic. The visitors have been almost as wasteful in front of goal and below average at keeping their opponents’ shots out, but the home defence remains the division’s most permissive by far.
Two teams better at defending than attacking meet here, suggesting that goals will be at a premium. Braintree have made far more of their chances and looked significantly more solid, so stand a much better chance of prevailing.
Kidderminster have made some encouraging progress lately: although they remain adrift of safety, their prospects look far healthier than just a few weeks ago. A trip to Cheltenham threatens to burst their bubble though: their hosts are in the automatic promotion race on merit and are ruthless at both ends of the pitch.
This is another pairing of clubs who have looked more assured at the back than up front, although both have finished very clinically and looked leaky at the back. We could therefore see some goals here, particularly as the away side – Eastleigh – are the stronger on paper.