League 2 previews, 27 Sep 2016

Below are preview graphics for each of the midweek games. These smash together minimalist 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 using high-level performance data. The graphic has three sections:

  1. The current ratings (with ranks) 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.


Both of these sides have looked stronger in defence than up front, so perhaps we shouldn’t expect too many goals here. Accrington will be the clear favourites to score the bulk of however many goals are scored, having continued to outperform expectations while their visitors’ finishing has left a lot to be desired so far. 2016-09-27-barnet-v-morecambe

Barnet are another side whose finishing is in urgent need of improvement – it’s currently the division’s most wasteful – and they won’t get a better chance than this. Morecambe allow opponents a ridiculous number of shots, although they have also been among the more clinical sides in front of goal. 2016-09-27-blackpool-v-portsmouth

Blackpool are the only League 2 club to have taken more shots than Portsmouth this season, although they’ve been far less effective at converting them into goals. Their visitors have looked formidable so far and are unlikely to allow them many opportunities, so home advantage may not count for much.


Both of these clubs have struggled to put the ball in the net this season, although Yeovil’s four goals against Cheltenham has boosted their conversion rate somewhat. Cambridge recorded an overdue first win of the season on Saturday and look capable of another here given that their performances have been far from terrible.


Cheltenham have readjusted seamlessly to life back in the EFL and if they can find a way to take more shots then a top half finish should be achievable. Only a handful of clubs have allowed opponents more opportunities than visitors Stevenage, so this game could tell us a lot about the Robins’ potential.


Despite rattling in three late goals at Morecambe, Crawley haven’t looked convincing this season – particularly up front. Colchester had a nightmare in defence last season and still don’t look all that robust at the back, but look decent overall and have taken their chances well this season.


This match brings together two improving clubs with legitimate promotion ambitions, although neither is without their flaws. Doncaster suffered a disappointing defeat by Luton at the weekend which highlighted their leaky defence, while Carlisle – whose back line has been among the more resilient – have at times struggled to convert their chances.


Exeter have struggled to create and convert chances this season although they are one of the division’s better sides at working the ball into good positions (only Doncaster take a larger percentage of shots from inside the box). Against a defence as vulnerable as County’s they look capable of a second successive win, although an injury-hit defence will have to be mindful of their visitors’ sharp finishing so far.


Newport are sitting dangerously close to the bottom of the EFL and unfortunately there’s not much evidence to suggest they should be sitting higher at the moment. Grimsby’s all-action attack has faltered in recent matches and their defence has looked vulnerable at times, but they remain solid favourites to record a win here.


Both of these teams look to be gradually improving, although Hartlepool are starting from a far lower base. Some clinical finishing has been undermined by leakiness at the back which an attack of Luton’s calibre should be able to exploit, while the Hatters’ resilient defence could well frustrate the shot-shy home forwards.


It’s remarkable that Plymouth sit atop the division despite having taken fewer shots than anyone else. Some heroics in defence have allowed them to edge games so far and they may be able to do so again against Orient’s wasteful front line. The hosts aren’t hitting last season’s performance levels at the moment and have suffered back-to-back defeats against far less formidable opposition than Argyle.


Wycombe’s recent decline is concerning, with their former defensive solidity having evaporated and their attack remaining blunt. Visitors Crewe have defended resiliently so far and – despite creating fewer chances than the Chairboys – have been able to rely on some sharp finishing, so stand a good chance of leaving with something here.