Over the last few years, I’ve written a few statistical play-off posts for the now-defunct-but-previously-excellent SeventyTwo blog, which are now archived at the equally excellent Two Unfortunates site. Normally, I’m trying to indicate something, or work something out, but the playoff posts came from a completely open mindset. I was just reporting what has gone before to see if there was any trends.

So, with the re-appearance of the Football League Playoffs last night, it stoked my fire a little to write something else. That was increased when, particularly, the Bradford C v. Burton Alb game threw up something of a surprise. So I thought I’d have a little dabble again; I might as well. So yes, if you know any Bradfordians or Burtonians, give them a nod, while I’ll pay a little more low-key attention to Northampton T v Cheltenham T at the end, too.

The Uniqueness of Bradford City 2-3 Burton Albion

This match, on the 2nd May 2013, was the first ever fourth tier playoff game to end 2-3.

It was also the first time a top-ranked team have scored more than two goals away from home. (there has now been seven such occasions; the highest away goal tally being Lincoln C 3-5 Bristol R (2007), but all seven have seen both teams score – three of the seven were first legs).

Taking this year’s ‘regular’ season into account, neither side had experienced a 2-3 scoreline before, though Burton Albion did have form in one respect, having beaten Dagenham, Morecambe and Rochdale all by 3-2 at home; all those teams featured in the League Two playoffs between 2009 and 2010.

Curious? Bradford’s last 2-3 reverse was 19.11.11 against Rotherham, while Burton’s last 2-3 victory was 9.4.04 against Morecambe.

So, if nothing else, you witnessed a little history last night.

Lessons From History

There have now been 27 years of playoff semi-finals; meaning 27 first legs between the fourth ranked and first ranked teams; the home teams have an advantage, but perhaps not as great as you might imagine.

P27 W13 D6 L8; so last night’s defeat was the 8th victory by a top-ranked team. I think this might be opportunity for a graph.

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It doesn’t make particularly pretty reading for those teams who didn’t win their home leg, does it? (The anomaly is Shrewsbury 0-1 Bury in 2009, if you were wondering) I guess, looking at the other side of that coin, it means there IS a precedent for it and a one-goal deficit is only one goal; away goals not counting double, of course, in this scenario. Its worth bearing in mind that this is only a bottom v. top teams comparison. The graph might look completely different if we incorporate the other semi-final, too. Let’s have a look at the third-placed teams’ record of qualifying after each kind of result; maybe that provides more encouragement.

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Oh.

Well. Anyway.

As I scramble round desperately for something encouraging, I notice a pattern emerging. “I know!” I should, before continuing

All Hope Is Not Lost

Well, it might not all be doom and gloom here. Bradford have scored twice, which looks quite encouraging when you look at the goals scored graph in terms of qualification. Also quite nice here to see a very definite ‘tipping-point’ as you do in this graph. Its also worth noting, I think, that Bradford have beaten Aston Villa, Arsenal and Watford this season and – perhaps more pertinently – have at least one case of beating a team away from home that they lost to at home (Oxford Utd, no less, who finished 9th).

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Horses for courses, then. Bradford are in a tough spot, for sure, but they’re not without hope. Burton will be rightly chuffed, but an early Bradford goal in the second leg would but the cat amongst the Bantams for sure.

That Bit On Northampton v Cheltenham That I Promised

Both Northampton and Cheltenham’s most common result this season is 1-0, so I guess that was no surprise.

They had equally the best home defence in the league (0.7 goals per game) but Cheltenham have kept more clean sheets and, indeed have kept five in a row at home as it stands. As such, their trailing by one goal probably isn’t such a problem for them, and I would reckon they can come back from it. As you’ve seen above, by winning the game, Northampton clearly have a chance of going through, but there’s a fair swathe of teams who have got through after a 1-0 defeat. In fact. In fact. A graph?

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Cheltenham reaching the final would balance things up neatly at 5-5 for that occurring. Tidy.

I can’t promise more playoff related posts, but they’re neat data sets, so I quite like them.

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