League 2 permutations: 14 Jan 2017

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.


Doncaster‘s four-point lead ensures that they’ll remain top for another week, with the same sized buffer keeping Carlisle out of Portsmouth’s reach.

Pompey themselves are guaranteed to remain in the play-off zone but can be overtaken by up to three clubs if results go against them. It’s a pivotal weekend for Grimsby who could join them in the top seven or slip into the bottom half.

Newport are currently five points from safety so won’t be leaving the bottom two this weekend, but Cheltenham are capable of escaping it at Notts County’s expense.

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.


Thanks to their healthy goal difference and a very winnable-looking home match against struggling Orient, Portsmouth are unlikely to be overtaken this weekend. With Barnet hosting leaders Doncaster and needing both a Pompey loss and a huge goal difference swing to do so, it didn’t happen at all in the simulations I ran.

One large (10 goal) swing that is deemed possible – although highly unlikely – by the model is for Notts County to overtake Leyton Orient, thanks to the latter’s aforementioned scary trip to Portsmouth while the Magpies are at home.

With Cheltenham also at home – albeit to an underperforming Accrington side that the model still likes – the Robins’ chances of slipping past County into 22nd are around one in three.