League 2 previews, 10 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.


With many of the division’s top sides facing tough and/or away matches, only Crewe have a better than 50% chance of a victory this weekend as they host low-rated Crawley. Underachieving Accrington remain loved by the model and are therefore given the best chance of an away win at out-of-sorts Leyton Orient.

Individual matches


Neither of these two look as if they belong in the bottom four – as both are presently – with Cheltenham in particular having underachieved so far. Exeter’s main decline has been in attack and their hosts’ in defence, so it’s hard to predict how this one will go, although the Robins look in far better shape overall.

While Crewe look to be overachieving this season they look strong favourites against low-rated Crawley. Both clubs have struggled to create chances this season, so the number of goals here may well be dictated by the performance of the deteriorating away defence.

Grimsby have adjusted well to life back in the EFL but the visit of top-rated Portsmouth presents an incredibly tough challenge. The away side rank top for both attack and defence but haven’t always been able to make their dominance count, and with the Mariners no shrinking violets themselves this could be an entertainingly close match.

Cambridge are narrow favourites here, having looked like a mid-table side even when results weren’t going their way earlier this season. Hosts Hartlepool only lost two of their first 12 but are now struggling themselves and look to be in real danger of relegation: some clinical finishing has masked the true extent of the issues and their visitors’ strong defence may give them short shrift.

Accrington continue to perform well without getting the rewards to go along with their efforts, but a trip to another out-of-form side presents an opportunity to register a valuable away win. Leyton Orient have continued to decline this season and they have also struggled to convert their chances, so this may not be a classic.

This should be a fascinating encounter between two clubs who should continue to play a part in the promotion race. It will be particularly interesting to see which prevails out of the clinical Carlisle attack and the incredibly stubborn Luton defence. Both sets of forwards look more capable than the players behind them, so maybe we’ll see a few goals here too.

Both of these clubs have seen some solid defensive efforts undermined by porousness this season, with Mansfield also plagued by some wasteful finishing at the other end. Colchester have recently rebounded from a dire run and continue to look capable of a respectable mid-table finish (as do their hosts) but as the away team they’re outsiders here.

Newport’s initial surge under Graham Westley was short-lived but they should be capable of getting a respectable result against the worst-rated side in the division. Morecambe look the more capable going forward but the sheer number of chances they allow makes them unlikely winners in most contests.

Notts County are a team in decline and the warning signs were there even while they were inhabiting a play-off spot. Their defence has deteriorated most rapidly and it will be interesting to see the extent to which in-form Wycombe – until recently a relatively quiet attacking force – can take advantage.

Surely one of the stand-out fixtures of the weekend, Plymouth have the dual motivation of staunching their recent collapse and derailing Doncaster’s challenge for the top spot they themselves had occupied for most of the season so far. The visitors’ clinical attack surely poses a threat to a club without a home clean sheet since early September but Rovers’ own leaky defence has been their undoing at times.

Home advantage isn’t sufficient to make Stevenage favourites here against a solid Blackpool side. The visitors create an impressive number of chances and their defence looks capable of making life difficult for the relatively clinical Boro attack.

These two have made modest improvements since last season, although the departure of Martin Allen from Barnet adds a randomising factor.