Minute-by-minute table: League 2, 2016/17

Today I’m updating one of my more off-the-wall pieces, looking at how different the league table would be if matches finished earlier. These usually tend to generate a few comments which begin with “If my Auntie had…” but I think they’re an interesting way to identify teams who tend to start or end matches unusually well (or badly).

What I’ve done is to calculate what each club’s league position would have been if only goals scored up to a certain minute counted, starting with the first minute and going all the way through to the 90th (where we rejoin reality). I’ve then drawn a line for each club to show how their league position would change if you did this.

This creates a lot of data points to visualise, so rather than a static image I’ve used an animated GIF to cycle through each club in turn. This shows every club in descending order of their final league position, on an infinite loop with each frame lasting two seconds. I’ve also gone for a minimalist look to keep load times down.

I appreciate that most people will want to look at their club for longer than two seconds in every 48, so if you click the graphic it will bring up a version in a new tab that can be paused, rewound etc.

Hopefully it’s obvious what’s going on:

  • The horizontal axis is the minute at which you artificially stop the clock in every match, divided by the lines into five and 15-minute segments (I’ve rolled injury time into the 45th and 90th minutes to keep things simple);
  • Vertically you have league position in descending order with the top four, mid-table and relegation places highlighted.

Not every club’s line is particularly interesting, but I’ve picked out a few of the wackier ones below.

Exeter fans have had a rollercoaster season – starting with a relegation battle and ending with a promotion tilt – and many of their matches have also followed a similar trajectory. As half time approaches the Grecians fare relatively poorly compared to other teams in the division, but if every match ended after 67 minutes they’d have topped the table. However they’ve tended to go off the boil a bit in the latter stages of games.

Colchester are another side who would have benefitted from shorter matches. Their first half performances this season have been good enough for automatic promotion, but things drifted slightly in the second half of matches and saw them looking more like a play-off challenger. If they can keep things ticking over for a bit longer next time around then a play-off finish should be well within their reach.

Barnet are a team who should be thankful that matches aren’t shorter, as the last quarter of an hour was the difference between survival and relegation this season. If every match had ended after 73 minutes they’d have been in the bottom two with just 48 points, but some strong finishes saw them grind out enough points for mid-table.