Play-off previews: League 1, 4 May 2017

With the League 1 play-off semi-finals kicking off this evening, I thought I’d see what the E Ratings model made of them.

If you’ve not seen these graphics before, they’re explained fully here, but in summary they’re intended as a simple pre-match comparison of two teams using high-level performance data. The graphic has three sections:

  1. The current ratings (with ranks) of the two teams and how these have changed over the past 30 league matches;
  2. A probability forecast for the match based on the ratings;
  3. Scatter graphics showing the teams’ attacking and defensive performance this season.

These two sides have equally strong defensive records this season – just look how close they are in the right-hand scatter graphic – so perhaps it’s optimistic to expect many goals in this tie.

In attack it’s been a different story: Bradford’s forwards let them down last season but this time around they’ve been the second most impressive in the division. However they’re also a bit wasteful and the improved volume of chances has cost them some defensive stability (their defence rating has been gradually declining).

Fleetwood by comparison have surprised me with their good scoring record (only two sides drew fewer blanks than their seven) given that they actually create chances of relatively average quality. The E Ratings model does take shot conversion – and trends – into account, but still backs Bradford to prevail overall.

Sixth place looks like an underachievement for Millwall in the model’s eyes, with a leaky defence having cost them the consistent results needed to push for automatic promotion. Their performances – at the back in particular – have remained strong throughout and therefore they’re fancied to win the home leg here.

Scunthorpe have enjoyed opposite fortunes in many respects: their relatively modest underlying performances being bolstered by some incredibly – and perhaps unsustainably – clinical finishing. After a recent slump, which I’d suspected was their bubble bursting, they’ve rallied to finish the season strongly, although their improvement hasn’t spanned enough games to form a firm conclusion.