Midweek previews, 12 Apr 2016

Here are the preview graphics for each of this evening’s Football League and National League matches.

The templates below 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:

  1. The current ratings of the two teams and how these have changed over the past 30 league matches;
  2. A probability forecast for the match;
  3. Scatter graphics showing the teams’ attacking and defensive performance this season.

2016-04-12 CH Birmingham Leeds

Despite their differing fortunes, Birmingham and Leeds look to be performing at a similar level this season. The Blues look to have the edge though (in addition to home advantage), with their stubborn defence up against one of the division’s more wasteful attacks. With the home side’s own front line declining in effectiveness lately, this could be a game of few goals.

2016-04-12 CH Middlesbrough Reading

Middlesbrough have found another level in recent weeks, with an improving attack to pair with their ever-impressive defence. While visitors Reading have been the Championship’s most dominant side in raw shot terms, they’ve been more wasteful than anyone except Nottingham Forest, suggesting that many of their efforts are of low quality and therefore unlikely to get the better of the home defence.

League 1

2016-04-12 L1 Barnsley Oldham

Barnsley have looked stronger in defence than attack this season, which gives them a good chance of halting Oldham’s impressive recent run. The Latics have struggled to create chances this season and that doesn’t look to have changed lately, with their fine form owing more to better defensive organisation, so they could find themselves frustrated here. The Tykes will need to throw caution to the wind if they are to have any chance of breaking into the play-off zone, as they’re six points adrift and still have to visit the current top two. 2016-04-12 L1 Gillingham Walsall

This may not be the last meeting between these two, with both now very likely to finish in a play-off position, so we could see each trying to suss the other out here. Both have been able to rely on a resilient defence this season, but in attack the Gills have opted for quality and the Saddlers quantity, which could make for an interesting contrast. The home attack looks the sharper, but their visitors are the more capable when it comes to restricting chances.

League 2

2016-04-12 L2 Luton Dag Red

Time is running out for Dag & Red, who pretty much need to win every game now and hope that others slip up if they’re to avoid the drop. While hosts Luton have been the epitome of the average club this season, their visitors have looked alarmingly off the pace at both ends of the pitch, so the Hatters are strong favourites to win this one. Having lost four of their last five, it’s possible that the hosts are already coasting with nothing left to play for, so if ex-Luton boss John Still can get his side sufficiently fired-up then they could spring a surprise.

2016-04-12 L2 Notts Co Hartlepool

Notts County look to have finally steadied the ship in recent weeks, with an upturn in results driven by improvements at both ends of the pitch. Visitors Hartlepool are in even better form, having managed to replicated what Rotherham are doing in the Championship: racking up a surprising amount of wins without a corresponding uplift in performances. It will therefore be intriguing to see whose rehabilitation has been built on the steadiest foundations, particularly the match-up between a home defence which has been worryingly leaky this season and their visitors’ meek-looking attack.

National League

2016-04-12 NL Eastleigh Barrow

Eastleigh need to make this game count if they’re to remain in the hunt for a top five place; they’re currently neck-and-neck with Tranmere to make the cut. The home side have looked strongest in defence but are likely to have their hands kept full by Barrow’s energetic attack, but their sharp finishing should leave them optimistic of breaching their visitors’ leaky back line. 2016-04-12 NL Grimsby Braintree

Braintree’s play-off challenge continues to flag but the E Ratings suggest that they’ve done well to have sustained it for this long. While impressive in defence they’ve often looked under-equipped going forward and are likely to have a tough time at Grimsby. Their hosts have the tools to dominate this division and have put in consistently strong performances, although their inability to turn enough draws into wins has often seen their dominance unrewarded. 2016-04-12 NL Guiseley Wrexham

Guiseley have been able to maintain a safe distance from the relegation zone this season but an 11-match winless run has seen them drift to just two points outside the bottom four. They will therefore be hoping that Wrexham have been shaken by the ground they’ve lost in the play-off race lately, but if the Welsh side are mentally present then their organised defence and sharp attack will make life difficult for their hosts, who have often looked blunt up front and overly-permissive at the back. 2016-04-12 NL Kidderminster Halifax

Kidderminster are surely resigned to relegation now, but their most winnable remaining home game offers an opportunity to go out with a bang. Harriers’ attack has let them down this season while visitors Halifax’s problems have been in defence; it’s unclear which of these will prevail here.Theoretically, the away side have more to play for: they sit just outside the relegation zone and this is one of their two games in hand over Boreham Wood beneath them, but their hosts may find playing for pride more liberating than doing so under pressure.

2016-04-12 NL Macclesfield Dover

Macclesfield have looked consistently solid this season but no longer have anything to play for, with the play-offs all but mathematically out of their reach. Dover by comparison look certain to secure a top five finish, with the visitors’ lethal attack the only material difference between these two sides. The level of energy that the away side wish to expend here ahead of a home match against Grimsby, which will be a valuable opportunity to reacquaint themselves with a likely play-off opponent, will likely dictate how close a contest we witness here.

2016-04-12 NL Torquay Altrincham

There’s plenty at stake here, with Torquay looking to continue their impressive recent run and move even further away from the relegation zone they occupied for much of the season, while Altrincham are still looking for their means of escape. Both have one further match remaining against a club currently beneath them, but will be aware that the outcome of this game is crucial for their survival. The Gulls look in better shape but neither has been able to hit the target consistently this season and both have looked vulnerable at the back, with the level of pressure sure to add a randomising element to proceedings.