Minute-by-minute table: National League, 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:
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.
Eastleigh looked like relegation candidates after half an hour
Eastleigh spent much of the season in contention for a play-off place but if you’d only ever checked their scores late in the first half you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’d be struggling at the opposite end of the table. If all games were stopped after 36 minutes then only two clubs would have a lower points tally than the Spitfires’ 48. However they finished games far more strongly, with a much healthier tally of 66 by the 89th minute and boosting this by a further nine between then and full time.
So did Barrow
Only relegated Welling had a worse record than Barrow with 33 minutes of every match played this season, at which stage they had just 47 points to their name. However they tended to end their first halves far more strongly than they began and had clawed their way up to a far more impressive 59 by the 44th minute and eking out a further six by full time to record a top half finish in their first season back at this level.
With an hour gone, Lincoln were vying for promotion
If we stopped every match clock at 54 minutes then only title winners Cheltenham would have racked up more points than the Imps’ 77. However they started to go off the boil thereafter and, while still among the five best performers as the hour mark was reached, they were a depressing 16 points worse off by the final whistle. The last quarter of an hour made for particularly unpleasant viewing, with only eight goals scored in this period but twice as many conceded.
Bromley’s late surges made all the difference
Despite securing a solid mid-table finish, it was only their relatively spirited showings in the final quarter of an hour of matches that spared Bromley from a relegation battle. If matches ended after 28 minutes they’d have been bottom of the pile with just 42 points and if we wind the clock forward to 74 minutes this rises to 50: better but still just two points away from relegation. However they piled on a further 10 to their tally between then and the final whistle with some strong late surges.