League 1 previews, 29 Oct 2016

Below are the individual preview graphics for each of the weekend’s 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 based on the ratings;
  3. Scatter graphics showing the teams’ attacking and defensive performance this season.

Before we launch into them, here’s each match is listed in descending order of how likely a home win is. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but this is NOT betting advice – there’s loads of relevant stuff that the model doesn’t factor in (e.g. injuries and suspensions) that will surely have an impact.


The current top two of Bolton and Scunthorpe both have a strong chance of cementing their positions this weekend, while Rochdale and Charlton also have the opportunity to climb the table.

Bradford‘s early promise looks to be in danger of evaporating, so they need to make the most of their away trip to Wimbledon. Coventry are also given a decent shout of lifting themselves out of the bottom four following their short journey to Walsall.

Individual matches


Port Vale have felt similar to Reading in the division above when comparing data with results: they’re at the opposite end of the table to where their performances suggest, so unless something changes I’m expecting them to drop. Their quiet attack may not find much joy against Bolton’s well-drilled defence and with the visitors’ own back line looking increasingly shaky of late, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a comfortable home win here.

When two sides who look far more comfortable attacking than defending meet there’s always the promise of goals. Rovers have swiftly reached an equivalent level of menace to Peterborough – doubly impressive given their two recent promotions – but so far aren’t paying as heavy a price at the back and are therefore favourites here.

Chesterfield’s prospects aren’t looking too healthy at the moment: they’re in decline at both ends of the pitch and relegation is looking increasingly probable. Charlton meanwhile look set to rise up the table having made some modest improvements and are among the most likely clubs to finish this weekend three points better off.

These two both look in slightly worse shape than last season, with Gillingham’s leaky defence the main difference between them. Each has seen some above-average shot conversion mask their supply problems and if the Gills’ porousness is a structural problem then Fleetwood could profit here, but otherwise this looks like being a close contest.


After five straight defeats it looks like Bury’s bright start was unsustainable, with their attack rating dropping as fast as it had risen. Northampton have also gone off the boil a bit, although not to the same extent, and the Cobblers look in slightly better all-round shape. The Shakers should get a few chances here, but their hosts’ ruthlessness up front could punish a defence which hasn’t looked solid for a while.

Two of the division’s most productive attacks meet here, with Millwall surely hoping that Oxford’s wastefulness in front of goal continues given their frequent lapses at the back this season. The visitors look far less permissive in defence but have struggled to keep the ball out of their net regardless: in all other respects they look the equal of their promotion-challenging selves from last season and capable of taking their hosts the distance.

Rochdale have allowed opponents fewer shots than anyone else in the division this season so the visit of its worst-rated attack should result in a comfortable home win. Oldham’s defence is in relatively good shape itself, albeit having relied on soaking up a fair amount of pressure, so this may not be a game awash with goals.

These two sides have fared very differently despite having taken and faced a similar number of shots. Scunthorpe are the division’s most clinical finishers while Swindon are its third most wasteful and the Iron’s defensive resilience is as far above the average as their visitors’ is below it. The relative quality of chances that the hosts create and allow – particularly the latter – go a long way towards explaining their differing fortunes and they look likely to bolster their lead at the top of the table this weekend.

Things are starting to click nicely for Sheffield United now: their attack rating continues to soar after 10 goals in three games – including three away against the notoriously tough Bradford defence – and they’re not exactly shabby at the back either. MK Dons’ sacking of Karl Robinson looks to have been harsh as they’ve looked more unlucky than terrible so far, although they’ve done little to suggest that they can challenge for promotion this season.

Neither of these two clubs has made a particularly convincing start to their season, although Southend have strung together some improved performances in recent weeks while Shrewsbury have continued to struggle. The Shrews are out on their own at the foot of the ratings table, with their defence in a particularly worrying state, and don’t look capable of derailing the Shrimpers’ recovery.

These two squads underwent extensive remodelling after recent promotion tilts, with Walsall’s ratings having finally levelled off after their resulting early season plummet. The model suggests that the replacements brought in by the Saddlers to replace the talent that was plundered are likely to finish in lower mid-table, while Coventry should be capable of better if they can get their attack firing properly. The Sky Blues are narrow favourites here and – having netted twice in three of their last four games – may have finally solved the finishing problems which have plagued their campaign.

Bradford’s impressive defensive rating has taken a few knocks of late but it’s too early to tell if something has fundamentally changed. Attack has been their weaker suit this season – theirs has been decidedly average and is coincidentally performing at a similar level to that of their newly-promoted hosts Wimbledon. The home defence has adapted even more capably to the demands of the third tier and gives them a decent chance of denting the Bantam’s promotion hopes further.