League 2 permutations: 25 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.


Carlisle‘s five-point lead over fourth-placed Luton means that the top three remains a closed shop for now, although anyone down to 12th-placed Grimsby can break into the play-off places with the right combination of results.

At the bottom, Newport can’t escape the relegation zone but they can leapfrog Leyton Orient, while Orient themselves can move out of danger at the expense of either of the two teams 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.


With Doncaster three points ahead of second placed Plymouth, at home this weekend and with superior goal difference, it would take a very unlikely combination of results to unseat Rovers from the summit. The Pilgrims have a similar advantage over Carlisle, so the top three is unlikely to change for now.

While Colchester can mathematically be displaced from seventh position, their winnable home match with struggling Hartlepool suggests that they’ll remain there. However if they stumble then Mansfield – themselves hosting bottom side Newport – are likely to take advantage.

With Leyton Orient needing to beat Cheltenham by at least three goals – or to win by a smaller margin and hope that Hartlepool lose – to escape the bottom two, their chances of doing so aren’t high.