League 2 permutations: 22 Nov 2016

What’s possible

Here are the highest and lowest possible positions that each club can occupy after the forthcoming round of 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.


The upper reaches of the table are pretty stable at the moment, with both Plymouth and Carlisle immovable and the three clubs beneath them incapable of moving more than one place in either direction.

Things get far more chaotic from that point onwards, with seven different clubs capable of occupying the lowest two play-off places. Even if Stevenage‘s match against Doncaster hadn’t been postponed they couldn’t make it eight as one of Mansfield and Blackpool – who play each other – would remain above them.

The relegation battle is also wide open, with any of the five lowest-placed sides able to finish the evening at the bottom of the Football League. What’s even more interesting is that four of those five are pitted against each other: Leyton Orient host Exeter while Colchester travel to Cheltenham.

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 forthcoming round of 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.


Luton‘s match with Portsmouth is finely balanced and could go either way – as could the Hatters – although even defeat for Pompey would be very unlikely to see them drop a place. Their huge goal difference advantage over Grimsby was only overcome in around 0.1% of all the simulations I ran.

Sitting this round out means that Stevenage are all but guaranteed to sink, and are likeliest to drop two or three places as others climb over them.

At the bottom Exeter are likelier than not to remain bottom of the pile, with Colchester likeliest to replace them if the Grecians get a result at Orient.