Minute-by-minute table: League 2, 23 Dec 2016

Today I’m updating one of my more off-the-wall pieces, looking at how different the league table would be if matches finished earlier. These usually tend to generate a few comments which begin with “If my Auntie had…” but I think they’re an interesting way to identify teams who tend to start or end matches unusually well (or badly).

What I’ve done is to calculate what each club’s league position would have been if only goals scored up to a certain minute counted, starting with the first minute and going all the way through to the 90th (where we rejoin reality). I’ve then drawn a line for each club to show how their league position would change if you did this.

This creates a lot of data points to visualise, so rather than a static image I’ve used an animated GIF to cycle through each club in turn. This shows every club in descending order of their final league position, on an infinite loop with each frame lasting two seconds. I’ve also gone for a minimalist look to keep load times down.

I appreciate that most people will want to look at their club for longer than two seconds in every 48, so if you click the graphic it will bring up a version in a new tab that can be paused, rewound etc.

l2-mbm-2016-12-23Hopefully it’s obvious what’s going on:

  • The horizontal axis is the minute at which you artificially stop the clock in every match, divided by the lines into five and 15-minute segments (I’ve rolled injury time into the 45th and 90th minutes to keep things simple);
  • Vertically you have league position in descending order with the top four, mid-table and relegation places highlighted.

Not every club’s line is particularly interesting, but I’ve picked out a few of the wackier ones below.

Portsmouth start games really, really badly l2-mbm-2016-12-23-04-portsmouth

No League 2 club has seen a larger percentage of the goals they’ve conceded arrive before half time than Portsmouth, with 60% of their opponents’ strikes coming in the first half of games. With 23 minutes on the clock nobody has a worse record than Pompey, who would be sitting on just 18 points with a goal difference of -5, although an 18-goal swing more than doubles that by full time. I’ve been looking all season for a way to explain how such a dominant team isn’t topping the table, and perhaps their stuttering start to games is a big part of the problem.

Colchester look like promotion contenders … until the last 10 minutes

They may be slumming it in mid-table at the moment, but if you stopped games shortly after half time then only Doncaster would be sitting above Colchester in the league table. Even as late as the 81st minute they have the 6th best record in League 2, but the five points they’ve dropped across the remaining nine minutes of play are sufficient to demote them to 13th. A glance at the timing stats shows that 37% of the goals they’ve conceded have come in the final 15 minutes of matches: a higher proportion than any fourth tier side except Mansfield.

If you stopped games after 69 minutes, Exeter would be on course for automatic promotion

Paul Tisdale has come in for plenty of criticism this season but if he’d been able to nurse his injury-ravaged squad through the last 20 minutes of matches more successfully then I doubt a word would have been said against him. If every game had ended after 69 minutes then the Grecians would be 10 points better off and have one of the three best records in the division, which is all the more impressive considering how bad things have been in the first half of matches.


Note: if you’d like a still image for a specific club, just ask me on Twitter.