League 2 permutations: 1 Apr 2017
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.
While there’s limited change possible in the automatic promotion places, the play-off zone remains a complete free-for-all. Five different clubs from current incumbents Stevenage down to 8th-placed Carlisle can finish the weekend in 4th place and two more can break into the top seven.
The gaps are getting wider at the bottom, with a six-point gulf between the relegation zone and 22nd-placed Cheltenham and another five points keeping Notts County ahead of Hartlepool.
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.
While it’s mathematically possible for Plymouth to overtake Doncaster this weekend, the Pilgrims would need an improbably large swing in goal difference to achieve this.
Stevenage have a roughly 50:50 chance of defending 4th place tomorrow, with nearest challengers Blackpool and Luton playing each other. A draw there guarantees Boro will remain above both, but a win for either would displace them on goal difference unless they beat Barnet.
Colchester are incredibly unlikely to climb as high as 7th this weekend. The only scenario that gives them enough points is if they win and Exeter draw at Mansfield, but that would leave both them and the Grecians on 60 points and United having to bridge a 12-goal disadvantage in goal difference.