League 2 permutations: 17 Dec 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.

l2-permutations-2016-12-15

A five-point gap between Doncaster and Portsmouth means that the top three is a closed shop this weekend, but anyone down as far as 11th-placed Stevenage can break into the play-off zone.

At the bottom, Newport are four points behind 22nd-placed Accrington and therefore cannot escape the relegation zone, but Cheltenham – with one point more – can break free.

What’s likely

The above shows what’s mathematically possible but doesn’t make any allowances for what’s likely to happen, so I’ve come up with a second graphic that uses my E Ratings prediction model (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.

l2-probabilities-2016-12-15

With Plymouth away while Carlisle and Doncaster are at home, the Pilgrims are marginally more likely to lose top spot than retain it. Due to their inferior goal difference, a draw would see them overtaken if either of their challengers won.

With Portsmouth at home to struggling Hartlepool and Luton away at fellow promotion-chasers Blackpool, the Hatters’ chances of overhauling Pompey in fourth appear slim.