With Bury and Southend having finally faced off again, every side in League 2 (and, more importantly, at the top end of the table) has two games remaining in its season. I wanted to put together a post to collect all the various scenarios and discussion points that could affect how the final stages of the season play out. Consider this your one-stop shop for “what if?”s.
Burton’s promotion is secured and Shrewsbury’s goal difference is so comfortable that they really need only one point to ensure their future in League One to avoid being caught by both Wycombe and Southend, who would both need to win both their games and hope that the Shrews lose both.
Race for the Playoffs
Of the sides hoping to make a late surge for a spot among the top seven, there are still four outside them who remain in the hunt: Exeter, Northampton, Newport and Luton. The first three all need to outdo both Luton and Plymouth by a significant margin, whilst Luton require either more points than the Pilgrims or to hope that Boro’ fail to get all three points against Carlisle and also secure a home victory on the final day.
If Boro’ do qualify for the playoffs, it’ll be as a result of finishing 6th or 7th, and result in a matchup against either Wycombe, Bury or Southend (or Shrewsbury at a push), with the home leg first.
Should Boro’ lose both of their games, only the Hatters and Plymouth could leapfrog them, and even then it would require both of the chasing sides to claim at least four points.
Even if Boro’ were to claim a single point from the six on offer only a pair of wins from both Plymouth and Luton would fail to secure the playoff berth, still with a game remaining. For that to become a reality, the Boro’ draw would need to come this Saturday versus Carlisle.
The full shake-up will almost certainly only be revealed come the final day. The only way Boro’ could have their playoff opponent fully confirmed come Saturday night would be if they earned at least as many points as both Plymouth and Luton, whilst Bury lost and both Southend and Wycombe won. The odds for a five-fold of that nature come in at around 60/1, so we can probably rule it out.
Could Goal Difference Matter?
In all likelihood, no. For goal difference to come into play to determine whether Boro’ make the playoffs or not, they’d need to lose both games and for at least one of either Plymouth or Luton to take exactly four points whilst the other gets a minimum of four. The other scenario that could see Boro’ level on points would have them drawing both games and both Plymouth and Luton winning both of theirs, but given the final day fixtures this is a logical impossibility.
The implications for Boro’ this weekend are as follows:
A win – guarantees 6th place and playoffs.
A draw – will ensure playoffs if either Plymouth or Luton lose or draw.
A defeat – will put Boro’ in the playoffs if either Plymouth or Luton lose.
Here’s your quick-reference guide to what the outcomes of three key games will mean for Boro’s fortunes:
Cut-out-and-keep guide to Saturday 25th April scenarios
The green scenarios ensure Boro’ make the playoffs. The yellow ones take matters to the final day, where their fate would still be in their hands. Even still, the probability that this happens is still just under 10% (going by current odds). I’m trialling some methods using ELO scoring to determine probabilities of long-term outcomes, which I may roll out in a series of posts next season, but haven’t quite nailed down the best way to present it yet.