As the League One season entered the home straight, Jim Potter wondered whether data averages could predict the division’s final outcome – at the bottom end, at least. Had we followed Jim’s analysis, would we have saved ourselves the stress and anxiety that comes with hoping we’d keep our heads above water? The results paint an interesting picture …

We’ve all heard the adage that ‘past performance is no guarantee of future performance’. However, over time, trends do emerge which allow one a greater degree of confidence in looking towards the future.

Of course, you cannot mitigate for unexpected, unnatural events like this recent pandemic which curtailed last season. But – as we reach the crunch part of the season (roughly five games to go, I’d always said, based on a casual observation over the years) – teams currently in the bottom four of League One will not, generally, achieve more than a point per game on average during the final run in.

Is that true?

I’ve looked at the last four seasons AFC Wimbledon have been in League One; I then discounted last season as it was curtailed, and there was no ‘run-in’.

Over the remaining seasons, I noted for each team – from 10th down with roughly five games to go (usually around April 10) – their points total then and at the season end, which allowed me to calculate their average points per game over the run in.

Then, for each relegation place plus two above the zone, I took the average points per season at each place and averaged those average number of points across the 3 seasons to get an average points per game each year.

The results are, ‘interesting’ …

# Team Pld Pts To play Max pts Pot. max Avg PPG* Proj. final pts
19 AFC Wimbledon 40 42 6 18 60 1 48
20 Wigan Athletic 41 41 5 15 56 1.3 47
21 Northampton Town 41 40 5 15 55 0.72 44
22 Bristol Rovers 41 38 5 15 53 1.05 43
23 Swindon Town 41 37 5 15 52 0.66 40
24 Rochdale 40 36 6 18 54 0.93 42

On this basis, the current bottom four will remain the bottom four.

If this occurs as predicted above, the win over Swindon has ensured our safety.

But, as in all predictions there is always a margin of error and the odd one off, so a win on Tuesday against Oxford should, to all intents, fully move us out of reach of the teams below us.

That is of course if you buy into this analysis and prediction. I do. I might want that Oxford win as well (for other reasons as well) but I am more confident now that we are on the cusp of surviving in League One for another season and may only need ‘one more point’.

And, as it transpired, that bottom four did indeed fall into League Two – but three of the four outperformed their forecasting points tally whilst the other, Bristol Rovers, completely underperformed. But what does that matter – we stayed up, and isn’t that all that matters at the end of the day?

// Jim Potter – @JamPot44


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