League 2 permutations: 25-26 Mar 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.

The top three aren’t going anywhere this weekend but the play-off zone remains a bit of a free-for-all. Stevenage are the only current occupant who are guaranteed to remain there, with Blackpool, Mansfield and Wycombe all capable of displacing the other three incumbents.

At the bottom Newport and Leyton Orient will remain in the relegation zone for now, with Hartlepool and Cheltenham jostling to maintain a safe distance from the bottom two.

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.

It’s marginally likelier than not that Stevenage will drop at least one place today as they have a tough trip to Cambridge.

However the play-off battle is less open than the raw mathematics in the first graphic suggests: Blackpool have a decent chance of breaking into the top seven as they’re at home to struggling Hartlepool, but Mansfield and Wycombe would require insane swings in goal difference to displace Exeter.

While Leyton Orient are only a point behind Newport, the fact that they’re away this weekend reduces their chances of overtaking the Exiles to around one in four.