League 2 previews, 12 Nov 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.


Portsmouth are by far the likeliest-looking winners this weekend, with the model giving them a strong chance of beating Mansfield due to the latter’s low-rated attack.

Accrington‘s trip to Luton looks to be one of the more interesting match-ups this weekend: finely-balanced and potentially pivotal for both clubs’ promotion challenges.

Plymouth and Cheltenham both have decent chances of registering an away win, with the Pilgrims looking ruthless and the Robins still expected to rise significantly by the model.

Individual matches


Blackpool have a strong chance of a home win here, being the division’s busiest attackers and considered to be performing well enough for a play-off tilt by the model despite sitting 14th. Visitors Notts County by comparison look to be overachieving in their occupation of sixth spot at the moment, with some clinical finishing masking a relatively average attack and compensating for a vulnerable defence.

These two sides are sitting lower in the table than their ratings suggest they should be, although Orient’s are still dropping. Colchester’s problems appear to be in defence, where they have struggled to keep shots out of their net despite allowing relatively few, but with their visitors operating the division’s most wasteful attack they stand a good chance of registering a clean sheet here.

Crawley look to have overachieved significantly in maintaining a place in the top half of the table so far, while Cambridge’s flirtation with relegation smacks more of bad luck than genuine awfulness. Neither have been particularly industrious going forward however, with two of the three lowest shot totals, and the visitors’ finishing has been poor. An away win looks marginally more likely than a home one based on the ratings, but much depends on how well the away attack can take its chances.2016-11-12-crewe-plymouth

Plymouth’s performances this season have definitely been good enough to sustain an automatic promotion challenge but their lead at the top of the table owes much to clinical finishing and heroic defending, both of which may not be sustainable over a whole season. However they should have enough about them to register a win here: Crewe are by no means terrible and are pretty sharp finishers themselves, but have a far quieter attack that may struggle to outscore the Pilgrims.2016-11-12-exeter-doncaster

Exeter’s long wait for a home win may go on a little longer given the strength of the opponent they’ll be facing this weekend, although Doncaster look to have gone off the boil in recent weeks. Some clinical finishing has kept them competitive but they operate the division’s leakiest defence and their promotion challenge is in danger of faltering. While the Grecians look better than their start to the season suggests, their performances have been “bottom half” overall so far and their visitors will have far tougher away trips than this.


Some wasteful finishing has marred an otherwise successful transition back to league football for Grimsby, so if they can become more reliable in front of goal then there’s no reason they can’t challenge for a play-off place. Barnet saw a relatively modest 22 goals scored across their first 10 league games but another 21 have arrived in their last five, so with both clubs taking an above average number of shots there could be a big scoreline here.2016-11-12-hartlepool-cheltenham

Two of the division’s quieter attacks meet here, although Hartlepool have been a sure guarantee of goals at both ends of the pitch this season thanks to some clinical finishing and a porous defence. The model expects better things of Cheltenham than they’ve delivered so far and assesses them as the likelier to prevail despite being the away side, but they may need to increase their attacking output to make serious strides up the table.


Luton continue to look far better than last season and capable of sustaining a promotion challenge, although their defence has looked far less convincing than their attack. The number of shots being soaked up for each goal conceded may be difficult to sustain over a whole season. Visitors Accrington should also be able to challenge for promotion this season on current evidence and are likely to push the Hatters all the way here, with their poor recent form at odds with some strong underlying performances.2016-11-12-newport-carlisle

Carlisle’s strong attack makes them favourites here given Newport’s struggles at the back, although the Cumbrians’ defensive heroics look to be masking a potentially vulnerable back line which makes their unbeaten start all the more impressive. It’s still too early to gauge what effect Graham Westley is having on the Exiles, but a tough home game such as this will be a good measure of how they’re progressing.2016-11-12-portsmouth-mansfield

Mansfield appear to have taken a “safety first” approach this season, with a strong defence coming at the cost of a cutting edge up front. Only hosts Portsmouth have allowed fewer shots so far, but they have managed to maintain a strong attack and look far likelier to secure a win despite their inconsistent performances of late. The model loves Pompey’s performances but they’re underachieving significantly so far and need to be winning games like this to keep their promotion hopes alive.2016-11-12-stevenage-yeovil

This match could be a useful measure of whether either of these clubs should fear slipping down the table. Both look just about good enough to avoid a relegation battle but have yet to convince up front and could easily be dragged downwards if their performances deteriorate. Stevenage have converted their chances far more capably than Yeovil so far but have looked more vulnerable at the back, so this is a tough one to call.2016-11-12-wycombe-morecambe

It will be interesting to see how one of the division’s quietest attacks behaves when given the sort of freedom that Morecambe’s defence typically allows. The visitors have faced far more shots than anyone else this season but few teams have a smaller attacking output than Wycombe, so it’s unclear which trend will prevail. The hosts look to have deteriorated since last season but still look the stronger of the two and therefore remain favourites here.