What’s still possible: National League, 13 Apr 2016

At work earlier this week I looked at how far it’s still mathematically possible for each Premier League club to rise and fall, and was surprised to see how far each can still move at this late stage of the season:

Seeing as this proved popular I thought it was only fair to apply the same approach to the lower divisions, which I’ve done here for the National League. Here are versions for the Championship, League 1 and League 2.

Possible vs. likely

Obviously many of these scenarios, while possible, are incredibly unlikely and require a very specific combination of results to occur. The modelled probabilities that I track on a weekly basis (most recently after the recent midweek games) give a much more balanced view of what’s likely to happen based on each team’s strength etc.

How I’ve built this

You may remember from my explanation of the weekly permutations graphics that there are over half a million possible combinations of results for just one round of matches, so it would take a prohibitively long time for a normal computer to crunch through every possible way that the five remaining rounds of fixtures can play out.

Instead I’ve built a tool which narrows down how far each club can move based on the maximum number of points everyone has available, and lets me quickly tweak individual matches or all of a club’s remaining results at once before recalculating the table. It’s not as fast as the weekly graphics (which calculate themselves automatically), but it’s not that difficult to do and by building the table up from individual matches I can avoid coming up with scenarios that aren’t possible.

Anyway, on with the results:

NL final permutations 2016-04-13

Even with just three rounds of fixtures to go, the top two of Cheltenham and Forest Green are the only clubs guaranteed at least a play-off finish. It looks from the league table alone that Rovers can drop to fourth, but with Dover and Grimsby still to play each other, only one can secure enough points to catch them.

In ninth, Gateshead are the lowest-placed team still capable of winning promotion this season, although they can still drop down as far as 14th if things don’t go their way. Slightly further down, the trio of LincolnBromley and Barrow have a slightly more benign worst case scenario thanks to Aldershot and Southport still having to play each other: this means that both of these latter clubs can’t overtake the aforementioned three.

Thanks to their game in hand, Woking have the largest movement range in the division: they can rise as high as ninth, with 64 points enough to match Gateshead, or drop down to 20th if Halifax and others mount a strong finish. Next to them in 16th, Southport are the lowest-placed team who are mathematically safe from relegation: nobody currently in the bottom four can surpass the 50-point mark and the Sandgrounders have already amassed 51.

The eight sides beneath them are all still at risk of relegation, with the lowest five all capable of finishing bottom of the pile. It’s now impossible for both Kidderminster and Welling to survive, as both can now only rise as high as 20th.