How long has it been since each club scored first but lost?

After my weekend burst of EFL stats (which can be found here if you missed it) I was asked by a Walsall fan about the longest sequence of matches in which a club scored first and didn’t lose, seeing as their current run looks pretty decent:

In the grand scheme of things, scoring first and then not losing sounds like a relatively common occurrence, but plenty can go wrong in a game of football and not suffering a mid-game reverse 35 times in a row therefore still feels pretty impressive.

After a quick bit of coding I was able to calculate the most recent league match in which each club in the top four English divisions had scored first and lost, along with how many subsequent games they’d opened the scoring in without being defeated. As usual I’ve left cup games alone as the more variable standard of opposition and line-up strength tends to muddy the waters.

The graphic below shows the longest current runs. While the Saddlers’ current run is among the longest, there are four clubs who are enjoying even longer sequences:


The longest run of all is Cheltenham’s. It’s been almost two years since they scored the opening goal and went on to lose: a game in which they netted after three minutes, were pegged back a minute later and then went a man down before losing 4-1. I suspect that storming their way to a 101-point National League title last season contributed to their impressive 46-match sequence, and it’s probably no coincidence that Grimsby – promoted along with them last season – are also near the top of the list.

The Mariners’ own impressive record dates back from a 1-3 reverse at home to Lincoln shortly after Christmas 2014, in which they looked to be taking a 1-0 lead into the break before being stunned by two late first half goals from the Imps.

Separating these two in second place are Championship high-fliers (and darling of the E Ratings) Brighton, who scored the first and last goals in a 3-2 home defeat to Nottingham Forest during Dougie Freedman’s first game in charge of the visitors.

With two of the three teams I’ve mentioned having been promoted and the third giving it a bloody good go, it’s unusual to see that Norwich – a team recently relegated – are up there too. The Canaries’ sequence extends back to their previous spell in the Championship when Reading beat them 2-1 at Carrow Road.



Rather than second-guess which teams you’re interested in hearing about, I’ve included full tables for each division below which include details the last league match in which each team ended up losing after scoring first:

Premier League


I was expecting there to be a few large Premier League teams higher up the list, but only the two Manchester clubs have managed to avoid defeat after netting first in a top flight game this year (Burnley and Hull will have racked up the bulk of their sequences in the Championship).



League 1


League 2