League 2 permutations: 22 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.


Plymouth‘s draw last week renders them catchable this time around, although Doncaster would need to win at Blackpool while bottom side Newport defeat the Pilgrims in order to overtake them.

The Exiles are guaranteed to remain at the foot of the table this weekend, but they could reduce the gap to just two points if things go their way. Any of the seven sides immediately above them – up to 17th-placed Blackpool – could be joining them in the bottom two.

While Wycombe are just three points ahead of 23rd-placed Barnet, the Chairboys can’t be dragged into the relegation zone as two of the sides beneath them – Exeter and Cambridge – face each other, so it’s impossible for both to finish the weekend above them.

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 Doncaster only have a 10% chance of overtaking Plymouth, which makes sense as this would need Doncaster to win away at Blackpool (34% chance according to the model) and Plymouth to lose at Newport (29% chance). Multiplying probabilities: 34% x 29% = a shade under 10%.

There’s likewise only around a one in five chance (21%) of Luton overhauling Carlisle, as again the Hatters would need to win while the Cumbrians lost. With Luton at home to Mansfield and Carlisle away at Stevenage, this is likelier than the previous example.

It’s worth pointing out that the table is calculated fully using goal difference etc – it just so happens that both examples above feature pairs of teams with identical goal difference.

Colchester are considered the least likely side to stay put – there’s just a 3% chance that the won’t move. They’re considered to have a strong chance of beating Morecambe this weekend so if they move upwards it’s likelier to be a leap than a shuffle: there’s a 25% chance that their league position will be in the single digits.

Barnet are the likeliest to remain in the bottom two with Newport as their goal difference limits their ability to benefit from the stumbling of others above them, although they still have a better than 50:50 chance of moving upwards.