Predicted | National League Top 10
With the run in to the business end of the National League season upon us here I take an analytical look at those challenging for promotion and how that might pan out.
In order to achieve a non-subjective prediction I have calculated a number scenarios which include both season to date and recent form, xG and xPTS stats, remaining fixtures and difficulty of those fixtures. Additionally I have considered other factors that could influence performance such as new signings and injuries etc and used weighted formulas to factor these in.
Having looked at the current table I can't see the top 10 changing much from what it is now, maybe with the exception of Eastleigh dropping out but hard to see who might replace them, Maidenhead maybe, but it will be tight.
Let's take a look at the teams, predictions at the end of the article.
Despite dropping points to an in form Halifax at the weekend on the face of it it's hard to see anyone other than the boys from Gander Green Lane securing that coveted first place and automatic promotion.
Confidence in the squad must be sky high and that is obviously transferring onto the pitch, however they are heavily reliant on influential midfielder Harry Beautyman's goal contribution who together with Millwall loanee, Isaac Olaofe have scored 24 goals between them in all competitions so far this season. An unexpected injury or suspension to either of these could present Matt Gray with a few problems.
Sutton have actually been over achieving now for the best part of 11 or 12 games and this further suggests that maybe that level of performance cannot be sustained until the end of the season. This is further emphasised by their xPTS chart shown below.
Sutton's expected points based on performance is actually 10 points less than their actual points gained. You would expect to see that gap close again by the end of the season and it will be interesting to see how Sutton go about maintaining their place at the top during the run in.
Pools have been pretty steady all season with actual points very much aligned with expected points. That said, despite their current lofty position they haven't really been pulling up any trees either and having already completed 31 games their above average PPG should guarantee they challenge, but it might not quite be enough.
Chart below shows how close Pools actual performances have been to xPTS.
What Hartlepool do have going for them is manager Dave Challinor who is no stranger to a promotion campaign after success at AFC Fylde and you can be sure that the leagues most consistent team will be difficult to knock off track during the closing stages.
The leagues early pace setters looked unstoppable for most of the first half of the season. However the imbalance between their results and expected performances was screaming of unsustainability and this was compounded even further as Gary Johnson had to contend with a glut of injuries.
It's clear to see from the chart below how Torquay were very much over achieving compared to expected points.
Despite a a bit of resurgence in recent games just 4 wins in the last 13 has seen Torquay drop out of contention for top spot and if things continue in that vein they could find themselves with a challenge to stay in the play off's.
It's been a bit of a topsy-turvy season for The Hatters who started the season as favourites for the league title following the purchase of the club by wealthy local businessman Mark Stott who put his money where his mouth is and quickly went about giving then manager Jim Gannon the means to go about strengthening the squad.
Despite having the favourites tag The Hatters have been a bit hit and miss and more recently had a period where despite creating plenty of chances just couldn't find a goal for love nor money.
The xPTS chart below shows how they have created enough during the season to secure more points than they have done and maybe should be sat with half a dozen or so more points in the bag.
The Hatters now under the stewardship of Simon Rusk have the advantage of going into the final stages of the season with a very strong squad, further bolstered by the signing of well known front man Paddy Madden from League One Fleetwood Town who could help shoot Stockport back into the football league.
The Red Dragons will have a big say in who wins promotion this season. Expected to be challenging for a play off spot Wrexham's stock went through the roof with the clubs supporters trust agreeing to sell to Hollywood favourites Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
On the pitch the takeover has spurred Wrexham into one of the leagues form teams with just one defeat recorded in the last 14 outings, no doubt the new owners dangling of a £250k bonus carrot for promotion is playing it's part in a quite incredible rise in results compared to performances.
The question for Wrexham will be the same as that for Sutton, can they sustain their current run of form or will they fall at the final hurdle?
Close second favourites to Stockport at the start of the campaign, last season's play off finalists were expected to be a major force this season. With a contract extension for play maker Callum Roberts in the bag and pre-season "Moneyball" signings Ruben Rodrigues and Elisha Sam flying in from the continent you would be forgiven for sticking a few quid on the Magpies.
However the loss of Wes Thomas up front for personal reasons and long term injury to Roberts meant Neal Ardley was fighting an uphill battle to replace lost goals and the amicable ex Dons favourite was eventually replaced just last week by virtual unknown Ian Burchnall, a coach last seen plying his trade in charge of Ostersunds FK in the Swedish top flight.
Notts have been finding it difficult to create too many chances this season and have over achieved compared to performances.