How tough is each League 2 club’s run-in?

At the beginning of the season I compiled my traditional fixture difficulty matrices, which colour-code each club’s schedule based on how tough each match looked. Given that we’re now at the business end of the season where a run of tough or easy games can make or break a campaign, I thought it was worth using these to assess each club’s remaining fixtures.

I can’t really use bookmakers’ odds for these like I do in pre-season, as title and relegation odds aren’t available for every club and in any case don’t marry up precisely with a team’s current strength (e.g. if they stormed ahead / fell behind early in the season, recruited well / were raided in January etc). Individual match odds would work, but it’d be a pain to harvest these even if they did exist, so instead I’ve used the probabilities generated by my E Ratings model, which I already use to power the weekly timelines, previews, ratings and predictions.

I’ve used the model to calculate each club’s win probability for every one of their games this season (using their rating at the time for games already played and their current rating for unplayed fixtures) and identified the 10 easiest and 10 toughest on this basis. I’ve then colour-coded those fixtures in the grid: red being the tough ones and blue the easy ones (I avoid green to avoid antagonising the powerful colour-blind lobby).

Each row in the matrix below lists a club’s league matches in chronological order, colour-coded based on how difficult they appear to be. Clubs are ordered and numbered based on their current position in the league table and those numbers appear again in the grid so that you can identify which fixtures are which, rather than just which category each opponent belongs to.

It looks like Blackpool could mount a late play-off challenge as their last three fixtures are against clubs currently in the bottom four. However Wycombe and Colchester could also finish strongly as they have already played all of their toughest games, so the race to grab the final play-off spot could well be dramatic.

Meanwhile Hartlepool and Notts County run the risk of being sucked into the relegation fray without any of their easiest games remaining and Grimsby‘s campaign could also end with something of a whimper.