Who will win League 2 in 2011-2012?
Southend and Crawley have made outstanding starts to the season in League 2, but how likely is it that any of the chasing pack can still win the league? After assessing five-year data after a similar interval, BE Community member Manchild makes a strong recommendation for who will claim the League 2 title in 2012.
And if you would like to contribute a betting article of your own for the BettingExpert Blog, email to andrew at bettingexpert.com.
After 17 rounds of fixtures (37% of this season's matches) it is a good time to review the betting market for League 2 and try to identify any stand-out recommendations for the title. The current league table shows Southend leading the way with 38 points, followed by Crawley on 36. Cheltenham (32), Shrewsbury (31) and Morecambe (30) are at the top of the chasing group.
I thought it would be a useful exercise to review how league tables in this division generally look at the same stage, and how they can be expected to develop in the months to come.
The last 29 games of the season in recent League 2 history
If we look back at the last five League 2 seasons, from 2006-2007 onwards, here is what we find:
- The first thing we see is that three of the leaders after 17 rounds over the past five seasons went on to lift the trophy. However, in the other two years Brentford came from seventh, and Notts County came from sixth position.
- Only two clubs have achieved a points-return rate of over 70% after 17 rounds of fixtures: Walsall in season 2006/7, and Wycombe two years later. Walsall ended up as one of the three leaders that held on to first place in the table. The Saddlers did this despite their points return efficiency dropping from 74.5% to 58.6% over the remaining 29 matches of the season. However, Wycombe finished their campaign in 2008/9 in third position after a dismal 47.1% points-return rate over the final 29 rounds.
- Much like a 7-furlong horse race, the data seems to suggest that instead of title-winning clubs increasing efficiency (speed) as the line approaches, in reality a gap develops because the remainder of the field reduce their points-return efficiency (slow down). The winner is the horse that slows the least.
- Notable exceptions to this analogy were Hartlepool in 2006/7 who almost managed to double their initial 39.2% success rate to rise 15 places and finish the season in second place on the table. Similarly, Brentford improved by 10.6% to achieve an efficiency of 65% to take the title in 2008/9. Finally, Notts County improved by nearly 20% to 74.7% to take the league title in 2009/10. Other than these three clubs, all remaining improvements by top-eight teams in the final 29 rounds of fixtures were relatively minor.
Based on the last five completed League 2 seasons, the average points-efficiency rate of a top eight club after 17 rounds of matches falls to about 50% for the final 29 matches. The table below shows that If a 50% rate is applied to the current league 2 table then teams below leaders Southend and Crawley will struggle to amass more than 75 points. If a good run-in is considered, with a points-return rate of 60% (such a rate has only been achieved by two top-eight clubs in the last three seasons), then the chasing pack might amass between 81 to 84 points. This is barely enough to beat Southend and Crawley if either can finish with an average (50% points return) or better run-in.
League Standings after 17 matches in 2011-2012
|Position after 17 matches||% of Points Won after 17 matches||Final Points if winning 50% of points from this point forward||Final Points if winning 60% of points from this point forward|
|1 - Southend||75%||81.5||90.2|
|2 - Crawley||71%||79.5||88.2|
|3 - Cheltenham||63%||75.5||84.2|
|4 - Shrewsbury||61%||74.5||83.2|
|5 - Morecambe||59%||73.5||82.2|
|7 - Oxford||57%||72.5||81.2|
|8 - Burton||57%||72.5||81.2|
Southend are priced at 9/2 for the title, and Crawley at 11/10. These early leaders therefore account for nearly 70% of the championship betting market. However, the data suggests that in order for a chasing club to beat both Southend and Crawley over the remaining 29 matches to the title, not only does the chasing club have to maintain a rare success rate, but also the two leaders have to deteriorate very badly indeed. The chances look slim.
Looking at the leading challengers, Cheltenham (28/1) are in good form at present. However, only seven of their matches have been played against top-half clubs and three of those were defeats. Mounting a serious challenge looks beyond Cheltenham at the moment.
Shrewsbury (14/1) have met more difficult opponents, but the form on the road looks insufficient to mount a strong challenge. Four defeats away from home would be worrying for their backers, but in their favour a good number of the toughest road fixtures have already been played. Currently the second best goal difference belongs to Morecambe (33/1), but three home wins from eight matches against fairly moderate opponents suggests they will fall short on this league campaign.
Swindon Town (10/1) have been pushing up the table recently, and indeed are the only club to have beaten both Southend and Crawley already. If the away form can improve – four wins from nine matches to date is insufficient – then Swindon could be a team that could break into the top-two places. Swindon may well be the best placed club to challenge for the title. Oxford United (16/1) have only played six fixtures against top-half teams and will have more difficult matches ahead. At the same time, Burton Albion (50/1) have only managed two wins in their eight matches against top-half opponents home and away, and look to have too much to do to win the title.
A two horse race?
Back at the top, Southend are on a storming run, and are picking up victories against all strengths of opposition. Two defeats out of three at fellow top-ten grounds suggest that some wobbles may be on the horizon in the months to come. Crawley are also on a great run, but with only one point from their three visits to fellow top-ten sides they too might have to find another gear.
Last season in league 2, Southend had amassed 19 points from their first 17 matches (37.3% points return efficiency), and they finished on 61 points (an improvement during their last 29 games to an efficiency of 48.2%). Although they have started the season so well, recent history suggests the success rate is more likely to drop than increase in the months to come. Meanwhile, in the Conference Premier 2010-2011, Crawley had a first 17 match efficiency of 70.6% which increased to 79.3% over the remaining 29 matches. With their superior resources, experience of a championship campaign, and excellent start to the season Crawley look to be the team to beat.
It is considered to be unlikely that Crawley can deteriorate enough in form for any team in third place or below to claim the title. Southend currently hold a two-point lead at the top, but look more likely to suffer a reduction in form. Crawley are considered to be a strong selection to win the League 2 title.
Back Crawley to come from second place to win the title at odds of 11/10
Visit Manchild's BettingExpert profile page to see his latest musings, opinions and tips
And you can follow Manchild on Twitter at @Manchild500
If you would like to contribute articles of your own betting analysis, strategy and philosophy for the BettingExpert Blog, send them to Andrew at andrew at bettingexpert.com.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:
You must be logged in to post a comment! Sign up + or log in in the top right corner.
Thank you for an excellent post, Richard. Excited that you post your thoughts on our blog!
Excellent,very helpfull.Continue the good work.
Another great read Richard. Excellent analysis of the League 2 season going forward. Looking forward to your League 1 piece. Great work.