League 1 permutations: 22-24 Oct 2016

What’s possible

Here are the highest and lowest possible positions that each club can occupy after this weekend’s fixtures. I’ve drawn lines under the automatic promotion and play-off spots, mid-table and the last spot above the relegation zone on both “axes” for ease of reference.

These graphics are explained here, but in a nutshell I crunch through every possible combination of results to work out how far it’s mathematically possible for each club to rise and fall.


Scunthorpe‘s midweek reverse at Oldham allows either Bradford or Bolton to overhaul them at the League 1 summit this weekend (although this would require a gargantuan swing in goal difference) and also provides the Latics with the opportunity to escape not only the relegation zone but the bottom half altogether. However their chances of performing the latter feat are vanishingly small, requiring an incredibly specific combination of results and a seven-goal swing over Northampton.

The table remains wide open, with the Cobblers and Oxford the most mobile sides: both are able to finish the weekend as high as fifth or as low as 18th. The two sides they can dislodge from the play-off zone in the former scenario – Rochdale and Port Vale – are not even guaranteed to remain in the top half of the table.

At the bottom, Shrewsbury can’t escape the relegation zone this weekend but defeat for Millwall at home to Fleetwood would allow one of Chesterfield or Coventry to do so with a win.

What’s likely

The above shows what’s mathematically possible but doesn’t make any allowances for what’s likely to happen, so I’m trialling a second graphic that uses my E Ratings prediction model (which I used to simulate the weekend’s games thousands of times) to assign some probabilities to all these potential changes.

It’s structured very similarly to the one above: the clubs are still listed in the same order as the current league table down the side and the dividing lines are all in the same place, but now across each row is the percentage chance of them moving to other positions in the table. As above, green indicates a rise, red a drop and grey staying put. The darker the red or green, the higher the probability. If there’s no number in a square, it means that the club didn’t fill that position in any of the thousands of simulations I ran and is therefore very unlikely.


So despite it being mathematically possible for Scunthorpe to lose top spot this weekend, their massive goal difference advantage means that Bradford have a roughly a 0.1% chance of overtaking them and Bolton didn’t manage it in any of the thousands of simulations I ran.

While not as vanishingly small, the prospects of Port Vale or Rochdale breaking into the top four also look pretty remote thanks to Sheffield United’s superior goal difference. Similarly there’s only a 6% chance of either Chesterfield (4%) or Coventry (2%) escaping the bottom four this weekend.

Despite sitting 19th at present, Southend are favourites to occupy the last relegation place after the weekend. They have to travel to MK Dons (whose strong underlying performances suggest that they could soon move up the table) while Millwall and Oldham below them both have more winnable-looking home games.