League 1 previews, 22 Nov 2016

Below are the individual preview graphics for each game in the forthcoming round of fixtures. 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.


With most of the division’s better-performing sides at home, leaders Scunthorpe’s trip to fifth-placed Peterborough represents the best chance of an away win.

Sheffield United are the most heavily-fancied by the ratings model and its assessment is far less extreme than the bookmakers, who expect them to make short work of free-falling Bury.

Fleetwood, MK Dons and Millwall are all given better than 50:50 chances of propelling themselves up the table with home wins, with the latter two having underachieved significantly so far this season.

Individual matches


Bolton’s promotion challenge looks to have been built from the back, with their defence among the division’s most impressive and the toughest by far to break down. Coventry have soaked up a fair few shots for each goal conceded themselves, but the number of attempts they’ve allowed and the wastefulness of their own attack have both counted against them this season.

Bradford remain one of the division’s best-rated teams but something looks to have snapped at the back recently: their defensive rating is deteriorating far more quickly than their attack rating is creeping up. Visitors Northampton have been better than average at converting their chances this season so could potentially take advantage of any leaks, although the Cobblers’ defence is far from watertight itself and they remain outsiders here.

While Charlton have looked better than their average league position this season, their defence looks to have ridden its luck at times and a trip to the home of one of the division’s most industrious attackers could see them overworked. Rovers’ defence has suffered for their swashbuckling style of play so a home win remains far from a foregone conclusion here.

Fleetwood are heavily fancied here, although this has more to do with Shrewsbury’s dire ratings than the hosts’ own. The home side have performed respectably well this season, although their 20-match scoring run – the longest in the top four divisions – is surprising given their relatively modest showings in attack.

Wimbledon have adapted admirably well to life in the third tier; the model’s optimistic assessment of Millwall’s chances is driven by the hosts’ consistently strong performances, on the basis that their defensive nightmares look more luck-driven than the result of any systemic failure. The visitors should not be underestimated however and have been playing like a top half side lately.


MK Dons have been underperforming at both ends of the pitch this season: they’ve tended to dominate matches in raw shot terms but their execution has let them down. They won’t get many better opportunities to make some luck of their own than a home encounter with the division’s bottom side, who are unfortunately looking increasingly doomed with each passing week.

Despite having rarely ventured into the top half of the table this season, Oxford have been recording some increasingly impressive performances lately and it looks like it’s only a matter of time before they start shooting upwards. Gillingham have recorded back-to-back wins and have a tough run of games coming up, so should be targeting a win here, but they’re not performing at last season’s level so could struggle to make it three in a row.

Peterborough look to be overachieving at the moment: while their attack is good enough to power a promotion challenge their defence looks to be living on borrowed time. Whether Scunthorpe – the division’s sharpest finishers and with one of the few defences capable of keeping Posh contained – can administer a dose of reality is unclear, but this should be a fascinating encounter regardless.

I’m not expecting a goal-fest when the division’s two lowest-rated attacks – also the division’s quietest and most wasteful respectively – come together. With Oldham also admirably stubborn in defence that could suppress the goal count still further. Port Vale won’t get many better chances to prolong their stay in the top half of the table, but this will be a closer game than their respective positions suggest.

These two clubs have both recovered from poor starts but Rochdale’s renaissance has been by far the more convincing. Walsall’s once-plummeting ratings have stabilised at a “lower mid-table” level while Dale’s never faltered and they look well-equipped to sustain an assault on the top six. With the hosts having allowed fewer shots than anyone else and the Saddlers among the most, the home side are likely to find themselves in control for long spells here.

Sheffield United quickly put a stuttering start behind them to go from strength to strength this season, while Bury have achieved the opposite: dropping from 2nd to 18th after eight consecutive defeats. The Shakers’ miserable run is unlikely to end in what looks like being their toughest away fixture of the season, with the Blades more than sharp enough to profit from their porous defence.

Southend are on a fine run which has lifted them from 22nd to 9th in the space of six matches, although their performances haven’t improved quite as dramatically. Some clinical finishing has helped, and that could come in handy again against a leaky Swindon defence. The visitors are still hovering close to where the Shrimpers began their recent run and unfortunately that matches their performances pretty well so far. It remains to be seen what effect Tim Sherwood’s appointment will have but this game, against an erstwhile fellow struggler, will be as good as gauge as any.