League 1 previews, 10-12 Dec 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.


Millwall – highly-rated by the model for a while now – look very likely to record a home win this weekend over struggling Shrewsbury. Sheffield United – even more highly-rated but hosting healthier-looking opposition – are also heavily fancied but not to the same extreme.

The most likely away winners this weekend are Northampton, who have adapted well to the third tier and face a Port Vale side whose attack in particular has long looked suspect due to a worryingly low number of chances created.

Individual matches


Two of the division’s more stubborn defences meet here but Bradford’s is in far better shape, despite some slight deterioration as part of the balancing act that has gotten the Bantams’ attack firing more effectively of late. Charlton have looked solid overall but aren’t creating the volume of chances that suggest they can make an immediate return to the Championship, with their highly-rated hosts looking clear favourites to win this one.

Bury are in free fall at the moment and this isn’t the sort of match you’d pick as the moment they arrested their slide. Defence has been the Shakers’ bigger problem and they’re visiting the home of one of the division’s more potent attacks here. While Rovers’ back line has also had some issues with leakiness, the away attack is no longer a sufficiently industrious force to take full advantage.

As I mentioned in my post on this weekend’s permutations, it’s possible for 16th-placed Walsall to finish the weekend in the play-off zone, although the unlikely combination of results required may well fall at the first hurdle. Fleetwood are a solid team who look capable of a top half finish and are unlikely to roll over here: the Saddlers are a shadow of their promotion-chasing selves from last season and even a draw would be a good result for them.


Even during their dire start to the season, Millwall’s underlying performances barely wavered from those of a promotion-chasing side, and lately their attack has been clinical enough to cancel out their defence’s extreme and inexplicable porousness. Visitors Shrewsbury are in the worst shape of any third tier side, having been in serious decline for quite a while, and therefore it’s hard to look beyond a home win here.

It’s hard to get too excited about this fixture and others have crafted far more articulate takes on the situation that I ever could. Suffice to say that MK Dons have been relatively dominant in raw shot terms this season but this hasn’t translated into quality, while Wimbledon have adapted well to this division and already look like a top half team.

Oxford have continued to impress and for want of some more reliable finishing would surely already be buzzing around the play-offs. While Oldham look to have enough about them to escape the bottom four, their attack is having a horrible time this season – only partly compensated for by some stubborn defending – and they could well struggle here.

Peterborough offer great entertainment for the neutral: they operate one of the division’s busier attacks but it leaves them open at the back. Visitors Chesterfield unfortunately only share the latter characteristic and lack their hosts’ cutting edge up front, so a home win looks the likeliest outcome in this game.

Shot-shy Port Vale have looked increasingly vulnerable at the back this season and this therefore looks like a winnable match for returning former manager Robert Page. His Northampton side have also allowed plenty of attempts at their goal but have looked far more capable going forward.

This game should be a tough test of Scunthorpe’s title credentials. Rochdale’s defence allow few chances and they haven’t conceded at home since mid-September, so the visitors’ clinical attack will need to be at its best. The Iron have a solid defence which hasn’t suffered any of the porousness that has continued to haunt their hosts, so there’s a chance that superior defensive discipline will prevail.

Sheffield United continue to go from strength to strength and there’s a danger that they could make very short work of Swindon’s listing defence. The visitors have struggled to convert their chances this season and nobody has allowed opponents fewer opportunities than the Blades, who are heavily fancied by the model here.

Southend have improved after a poor start to the season and home advantage is giving them a narrow edge over Coventry here. The visitors aren’t as terrible as their league position suggest and they look capable of following the Shrimpers in pulling away from the drop zone, but much depends on whether they can sort their incredibly wasteful finishing out.

The Monday evening game looks like a tough one for Gillingham, who visit the home of the division’s most stubborn defence. The Gills’ performances have been a notch or two below those of last season and, while Bolton haven’t been creating enough chances to fully convince, the hosts look to be clear favourites for this one overall.