League 2 permutations: 29 Apr 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 title race is still on, although Doncaster could claim it if results go their way this weekend. A much more intense battle is raging in the play-off zone however, with everyone down to 12th-placed Colchester able to go into the last round of games in a top seven spot.

At the bottom, newly-managerless Hartlepool can still overhaul Newport and return to safety, although a bad set of results could seal their fate.

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.

Plymouth need a win – and realistically for Doncaster to lose – if they’re to go into the final round of games in top spot, so this isn’t a likely scenario.

A change of membership in the play-off zone is far more probable, with all four of the current occupants on the road this weekend. With Mansfield having to face Portsmouth, Wycombe are marginally likelier to take advantage of any slips, although the model doesn’t factor in the probability that some sides may be less motivated than others.

With Hartlepool away at Cheltenham – a massive game for both clubs as it could seal safety for the underperforming Robins – it’s unlikely that they’ll overhaul Newport this weekend.