League 2 previews, 28 Jan 2017

Given that there’s a cup-depleted EFL schedule this weekend I haven’t produced any permutations graphics, but to balance things out I’ve gone into a bit more detail with the previews.

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.


Both of these clubs have looked far healthier going forward than at the back this season, although stubborn defences have papered over some of the cracks. Carlisle have also been able to rely on some clinical finishing and – after a dip in performances – are once again looking decent value for a top three finish. However the threat posed by an improving Barnet should not be discounted.

After a respectable start to the season, Crewe’s performances have been deteriorating worryingly, with an always-quiet attack recently joined by a permissive defence. Visitors Cheltenham have also looked less convincing as the season has worn on, but their decline has been far more subtle and they still look capable of both a win here and a mid-table finish overall.

Luton look to have earned their place in the play-off race this season with some consistently strong performances, although operating the division’s stubbornest defence has helped. Visitors Cambridge look likely to come off second best here as a result, although their own strong back line could keep the goal count down.

Leyton Orient’s ratings are plummeting, which is unsurprising given their ongoing crisis, so Mansfield are the likelier victors here. With defence being the Stags’ significantly stronger suit, they’re likelier to register a clean sheet than demolish their visitors and – having lost a few first-team regulars in the January window already – may not be at their most fluent.

This definitely has the air of a relegation six-pointer even with the visitors looking relatively safe at the moment. Newport desperately need points and should be going all-out for the victory, particularly against a club whose performances have been even less impressive than their own this season. Hartlepool have had some clinical finishing to thank for getting them out of jail this season, having taken the fewest shots in the division and looking less dangerous than ever in recent matches.

Notts County are the worst-rated team in the division and those numbers are still dropping, so escaping the relegation zone will take some doing. Against improving but still poorly-rated Crawley they have a decent chance of moving up the table this weekend however, as execution at both ends of the pitch has contributed far more to the visitors’ superior fortunes than the difference in performance.

Exeter may be the division’s form team but this should be their toughest game of the season. Portsmouth have consistently dominated matches this season and are within touching distance of the top three, so should be fired up for this one. Pompey’s finishing has often been wasteful and their defence leaky however, and they’re up against the opposite here – one of the division’s most clinical attacks and most stubborn defences – so the Grecians may possess a psychological edge.

This should be a close affarir and it will be interesting to see which prevails out of Stevenage’s clinical attack and Grimsby’s resilient defence. The Mariners’ above-average record at chance creation should provide opportunities against the division’s second most permissive back line, and their better overall rating pretty much cancels out the effect of home advantage here.

Yeovil’s attacking output was genuinely dire last season but they’ve improved significantly this time around without compromising a decent defence. However the visit of table-topping Doncaster presents a sizeable challenge, with Rovers’ leaky defence more than compensated for by their ruthless finishing.