Minute-by-minute table: League 2, 2015/16

This is an update one of my more off-the-wall regular pieces, looking at how different the league table would be if matches finished earlier. These usually tend to generate a few comments which begin with “If my Auntie had…” but I think they’re an interesting way to identify teams who tend to start or end matches unusually well or badly.

What I’ve done is to calculate what each club’s league position would have been if only goals scored up to a certain minute counted, starting with the first minute and going all the way through to the 90th (where we rejoin reality). I’ve then drawn a line for each club to show how their league position would change if you did this.

This creates a lot of data points to visualise – 24 clubs multiplied by 90 minutes (I roll injury time into the 45th and 90th minutes for simplicity) – so rather than a static image I’ve used an animated GIF to cycle through each club in turn. This shows every club in descending order of their final league position, on an infinite loop with each frame lasting two seconds.

I appreciate that most people will want to look at their club for longer than two seconds in every 48, so if you click the graphic it will bring up a version in a new tab that can be paused, rewound etc (hat tip to Ben Huxley for showing me how to do this).

Without further ado, here it is:

L2 MBM 2015-16

Hopefully it’s obvious what’s going on: the horizontal axis is the minute at which you artificially stop the clock in every match, divided by the lines into five and 15-minute segments, and vertically you have league position in descending order with the automatic promotion, play-off, mid-table and relegation places highlighted.

Not every club’s line is particularly interesting, but I’ve picked out a few of the wackier ones below.

Portsmouth took a while to get going
L2 2015-16 MBM 06 Portsmouth

Portsmouth only managed to score nine goals in the first half an hour of their matches this season, so if you stopped the clock in every match after 28 minutes they’d be sitting second from bottom. However they rattled in a joint-best 19 goals in the final quarter of an hour of their first halves to go in at half time looking like promotion contenders. With 71 minutes on the clock they were second only to Northampton, but the eight points they lost between the 85th minute and full time ultimately saw them fall away.

First halves tended to end badly for Orient
L2 2015-16 MBM 08 Leyton O

Leyton Orient were among the brightest starters in the division this season, with only Oxford and Cambridge enjoying a healthier goal difference in the first quarter of an hour of their matches. However things quickly went south for them thereafter, with their opponents outscoring them by 11 goals in the remainder of their first halves. If you stopped the clock in every game at the 46 minute mark they would have just 49 points to their name, although they ended up adding 20 more during their much healthier second half performances.

The Wycombe dressing room probably wasn’t very cheerful at half time
L2 2015-16 MBM 13 Wycombe

Like Orient, Wycombe also started matches pretty well overall. However the 15 minutes between the half-hour mark and half time saw them score just three goals, meaning that few clubs performed worse in the first half of their matches. However the Chairboys had a habit of righting most of their wrongs shortly after the interval: the 46 points they’d have finished with if you stopped every game after 49 minutes shot up to a much healthier 59 just 12 minutes later.

The first half an hour was relatively plain sailing for the Daggers

L2 2015-16 MBM 23 Dag Red

While Dag & Red unfortunately succumbed to the drop this season, most of the damage clearly wasn’t done until late in the first half at the earliest. With 33 minutes on the clock they had 58 points to their name, but seven of those were lost before half time and their tally continued to fall as games wore on. A look at the numbers shows that they scored 17 goals and conceded 13 in the first half an hour of their games but netted just nine more times while shipping 18 in the remainder of the first half.