League 2 permutations: 18 Feb 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.

2017-02-18-l2-permutations

With just three points separating them, it’s possible for Plymouth to overtake Doncaster at the top of the table this weekend, with the same margin keeping Carlisle in third above Luton.

It could be a big week in the play-off battle with everyone down to 11th-placed Barnet capable of moving into contention if Exeter or Mansfield were to slip up.

Newport remain rooted to the bottom for now but could be joined in the relegation zone by any of the four clubs directly above them.

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.

2017-02-18-l2-probabilities

While it’s possible for Plymouth to overtake Doncaster tomorrow, it isn’t very likely. While the Pilgrims’ trip to Hartlepool looks far tamer a challenge than Rovers’ entertaining of Luton, they’d need a seven-goal swing to make the maths work.

The Hatters’ clash with the league leaders means that they’re unlikely to depose Carlisle from third place, although much depends on whether the Cumbrians’ hosts Wycombe can rediscover their previous fine form.

Leyton Orient look slightly likelier than not to escape the drop zone this weekend as they host fellow strugglers Notts County and may only need a point if Cheltenham lose again.