League 2 timelines, 10 Sep 2016: Doncaster burst Morecambe’s bubble

A quick explanation

You can skip this if you’ve seen these before.

As usual, here are timeline graphics for the latest round of matches. There’s a full explanation of these here, but in a nutshell they track how each club’s expected goals tally (the number of goals that the average team would have scored from the chances that they created) increased over the course of the match.

This allows us to get a better sense of how each game played out than from just watching the highlights. Every jump in a line is a shot, with bigger jumps corresponding to more promising chances (at least as far as I can tell from the limited data available at this level).

There are two numbers next to each club’s name: the first is how many goals they scored and the second (in brackets) is how many goals the average club would have scored from their shots. The latter number is what the lines track, with dots on the lines denoting the goals they actually scored.

You can browse previous timelines by selecting “VISUALISATIONS > TIMELINES” from the menu.

Side-by-side comparison

First of all, here are all of the match timelines side-by-side and using the same vertical scale, which makes it easier to pick out which games saw the most (and least) goalmouth action. I always sort matches by date and then alphabetically by the home team’s name in these posts to make it easier to find a specific one:


There were three outstanding attacking performances this weekend, but only two of them resulted in a win. Doncaster’s hammering of Morecambe was the most impressive for coming away at a seemingly high-placed team, although those who’ve followed my timelines this season will know that Morecambe have lived a charmed life at the back this season while Rovers have been one of the more impressive all-round performers. Portsmouth’s convincing win over Wycombe came from yet another dominant showing – they’ve looked formidable so far even if results haven’t always gone their way – while the third, unlucky performance was that of Carlisle. The Cumbrians had to settle for snatching a late point against Orient even though they’d looked worthy winners throughout.

Individual matches


As mentioned above, this looks to have been a game that Carlisle should have won, rather than one where they needed a late penalty to recover a share of the points. Despite creating several good chances in the middle of an otherwise relatively dull first half, the home side found themselves behind at the break and again shortly after the hour mark. Fortunately for them, Orient either ran out of steam or sat back after netting their second.2016-09-10-colchester-blackpool

While Blackpool created plenty of chances here, they were mostly from poor positions while – in the second half at least – hosts Colchester were able to work the ball into more dangerous areas. Their best spell came shortly after half time, when they made up for their poor start to the game with a succession of good chances that gave them the lead. The visitors were the busier side thereafter but were reduced to mainly speculative efforts.2016-09-10-crewe-exeter

Finishing looks to have been the difference here, with Exeter creating slightly better chances than Crewe overall – albeit in a close game – but leaving empty-handed. The visitors threatened more regularly and kept their hosts quiet at the start of each half, so were unfortunate not to have taken something from this match.2016-09-10-luton-grimsby

Luton perhaps paid for a poor start here, having not troubled Grimsby’s goal for the first half an hour. By then the Mariners were already deservedly ahead and – despite a second-half renaissance from the home side – were able to recover their lead late on when their hosts appeared to run out of steam.2016-09-10-mansfield-barnet

Unlike the Hatters, Barnet prevailed despite a poor start this weekend. Having gone almost the entire first half without an attempt at goal, the Bees made good use of the few second half opportunities they carved out to stun Mansfield. The home side didn’t exactly make an electrifying start themselves but were the far more industrious attackers thereafter and will be disappointed not to have at least taken a share of the points.2016-09-10-morecambe-doncaster

As I mentioned at the outset, Morecambe’s defence has been soaking up a tremendous amount of punishment this season while Doncaster have been one of the best all-round performers, so this result wasn’t as surprising as it would have been between two different sides. It looks to have been a comprehensive victory for the visitors, with Morecambe kept quiet for most of the match and the ratios of both expected and actual goals identical between the two teams.2016-09-10-newport-cheltenham

This looks to have been a fair result overall, with both Newport and Cheltenham creating roughly two goals’ worth of chances. The visitors’ racked up theirs more sporadically, enduring long spells at at either end of this contest without troubling the home defence much, while Newport – who had twice pegged the Robins back with impressive speed – spent much of the second half chipping away fruitlessly.

What to say about this game? Two goals from just three shots makes it a contender for strangest timeline of the season so far. It’s not clear what was going on for the rest of the time but for the sake of the crowd I hope it was at least entertaining.2016-09-10-plymouth-cambridge

Cambridge look to have been stunned by Plymouth’s early goal, as they struggled to test the home defence for the remainder of the first half. For much of the game they kept pace with their hosts, albeit never catching up with their overall tally, and look to have merited their place on the scoresheet. While far from a comprehensive win for the Pilgrims – allowing an opponent 1.7 expected goals’ worth of chances at home is nothing to be proud of when the average is below 1.2 – they look to have been the worthier winners overall.


As half time approached this looked an even contest, with Portsmouth recovering from a surprisingly anonymous start to claw their way back into the game. However their double strike just before half time – the first a penalty – appeared to wake them up and they put in a far more assured second half performance. The sharp-eyed will have noticed there are only three dots on Pompey’s line – the two goals at the end of the first half are sitting on top of each other, which is an annoying limitation of how these graphics are generated.2016-09-10-stevenage-crawley

Stevenage look to have edged an even game here, having been slightly out-created by Crawley overall. The home side struck as the first half limped to a close and then were rewarded with another goal after a bright start to the second period, leaving them able to hold out against the visitors’ late rally.2016-09-10-yeovil-hartlepool

This looks to have been a real smash and grab victory for Hartlepool, who looked dead and buried after Yeovil took the lead early in the second half. Up to that point the visitors had barely troubled the Glovers’ defence, yet somehow they emerged victorious after scoring with the final two of the four shots they took in this game.